Ice Hockey preview: Ready to face off against the best

SPENCER DREHER

STAFF WRITER

Southington-Hall ice hockey is just two years removed from being the runner-up in the state championship.  While the team this season may be different, coach Brian Cannon said he has noticed some similarities to the team that made the magical run in 2017-2018.

“In some ways, we have as much skill and ability on this team as we have had on many of our other teams,” Cannon said.  “Obviously, we are still a work in progress, but they are a good group of kids.  You never really know where you stand against other schools until later on in the year so we are going to have to see who we can compete with.  But I do like our chances.”

The Warrior Knights are looking to rebound from a season ago where it went 6-13-2, and was eliminated in the first round of the Central Connecticut Conference tournament.  Cannon said there are quite a few holes that have to be filled from 2018-2019.

The Warrior Knights lost three of their senior captains, Chris Gambardella, Mike Dipietro, and Nate Zmarlicki.  They also lost their right wing, Bobby Allan, who transferred to Notre Dame-West Haven for his junior season.

“Bobby was a great presence up front and had some scoring ability,” Cannon said.  “Gambardella was our anchor defenseman.  Dipietro did plenty of scoring for us.  We definitely miss those guys.”

Cannon and his staff said that the returning players this season accounted for about 30 points last season, while their leading scorer accounted for 30 points himself.  Junior wing, Mason Wood, was the highest scorer of the returners with eight points.

Southington-Hall does return its goalie from a season ago, Noah Behrens-Gould.  Cannon said he also expects several seniors to step up this season.

“We have some good seniors on this team, even some who are playing their first year,” Cannon said.  “Cam Perez is a prominent player on the ice.  Matt Weir is also prominent.  He motors around the ice, he moves the puck, and he shoots the puck.”

Cannon and the Warrior Knights hope to get back to competing in the CCC, keeping their eyes on teams like Enfield-E. Granby-Stafford, Wethersfield-Middletown-Rocky Hill-Plainville, and EO Smith-Tolland.

Cannon said his expectations are always to make a run in the CCC tournament and continue to play throughout the month of March.

“I have a bunch of plaques in my locker for conference runner up and I don’t like them,” Cannon said.  “They are nice to get but we want the trophy.  I expect us to be in the conference playoff and would like to see us win it.  From there, it is anybody’s guess, but I like our chances to get through the first couple of rounds and then who knows?  Maybe getting to Yale will be a possibility.”

Cannon said he saw good signs in the team’s scrimmage versus Sheehan, who is expected to be one of the competitors in Division III.  If the team wants to succeed this season, Cannon said they will have to continue to improve moving the puck.

“We will have be more in shape in our zone and get the puck through the middle,” Cannon said.  “Our attack will hopefully improve.  Sometimes the puck is sitting on our sticks too long and it makes for blocked shots and blocked passes.  We will need to work on our scoring touch, and that is something will continue to work on over the season.”

To comment on this story or to contact staff writer Spencer Dreher, email him at SDreher@SouthingtonObserver.com.

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