Falcon Icemen Win CCC South Tournament

A baseball principle that good pitching and defense usually prevails over good hitting can also be applied to ice hockey: solid defense and outstanding goaltending can stop an excellent offense.

Such was the case Saturday night in the championship game of the Central Connecticut Conference South tournament at Trinity College in Hartford, as Fermi-Enfield-East Granby-Stafford defeated E.O. Smith-Tolland, 4-1.

Senior captain Ryan Gothers had a hand in every goal, scoring twice from his defensive position and adding two assists to lead the Falcons to their first conference tournament title since 2009.

“Everybody is just so excited,” Falcon head coach Frank Genovese said. “I can’t tell you how proud I am of them. They have done everything we’ve asked and more. They bring energy and effort to the game, and they dug deep and made plays when they needed to.”

Gothers got things rolling just over 10 minutes into the game by firing home a shot from the left point on a power play. Defensive partner Troy Marin assisted on the goal.

The Bucks went on a power play later in the first period, but a long clearing drive from his own zone by Gothers was picked up by Ryan Monro at the far blue line. He skated in on goaltender Matt Schoen’s left side and snapped in a wrist shot for a shorthanded goal, giving the Falcons a 2-0 lead at the first intermission.

“They fed right off of each other,” Genovese said. “Monro took off and Gothers saw him, then Monro buried it for a huge goal at the time.”

The Bucks finally beat Falcon goaltender Sam Roy just past the midpoint of the second period, with Josh Barnes netting a power play goal off assists from Peter Mayer and Dylan Coughlin.

“You’ve got to get some bounces against good goalies, and (Roy) played great every time we played them this year,” Bucks head coach John Hodgson said.

Back-to-back penalties to the Bucks gave the Falcons a 5-on-3 advantage for a 1:43 stretch late in the period. Just when it appeared the Bucks had killed off the two-man disadvantage, Gothers slammed in his second goal of the game with one second remaining in the second penalty. Brian Riley and Thomas Vose assisted on the play.

“In a low-scoring game, killing off a 5-on-3 is a pretty big task,” Hodgson said. “When it didn’t happen, we kept working but couldn’t get that other goal.”

The Bucks had a chance to cut the deficit back to one by going on another power play with 4:24 remaining in the third period. Despite several good scoring opportunities, Roy and the Falcon defense held tough, killing off the penalty. Monro then iced the championship with an empty-net goal, set up by Gothers, with 1:05 to play.

Roy played spectacularly, counting several brilliant stops among his 26 saves.

“Sammy played great in net when we needed him,” Genovese said. “We killed penalties, we won faceoffs – we did everything right fundamentally.”

Schoen registered 28 saves for the Bucks.

Both teams have little rest time before beginning state tournament play. In a rematch of last year’s Division III final, the top-seeded Bucks take on No. 16 Newtown Monday at 6:45 p.m. at the UConn Ice Arena. The Falcons, seeded 10th in Division II, travel to the Canterbury School to face No. 7 New Milford Tuesday at 7:30 p.m.

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