Tri-Town Hockey Defeats Enfield to Reach State Finals

The third-seeded Tri-Town hockey team defeated rival and No. 2 seed Enfield-East Granby-Stafford (EEG) 5-2 in Thursday night’s Division III semifinals at Ingalls Rink in New Haven. The Knights (15-7-1), who represent Ellington as well as Somers and Windsor Locks, received goals from five different players and two assists from Alex Knisley. They also received a stellar performance by junior goalie Peyton Emrick, who took away many great scoring opportunities from Enfield (14-8-1) and finished with 33 saves. The matchup was the team’s third this season, with Tri-Town getting revenge on the Eagles recent win against it.

Tri-Town will face the No. 5 Eastern CT Eagles (17-3-3) in Saturday morning’s Division III championship game. The Eagles took down top-seeded Stapes 8-6 in the second semifinal. The Knights and Eagles met earlier this season, with the Knights losing 8-5.

After Tri-Town scored the game’s opening two goals in the first period, Enfield scored twice to tie the score midway through the second. Behind Emrick, the Knights defense tightened up from that point on, holding the Eagles scoreless for the final 21:29.

Tri-Town head coach Kyle Fijalkowski discussed how valuable and impressive Emrick was in goal.

“Peyton was incredible. He made a couple of saves that looked like ones you’d see on ESPN,” Fijalkowski said. “He’s been playing outstanding, and he can do it again Saturday.”

Junior Ben Kingsbury got Tri-Town on the scoreboard first, scoring off of a rebound from Knisley. Less than two minutes later, the team scored again on a Knisley rebound, with senior Dan Bell firing in the puck this time.

In the second, the Enfield offense put together a brief stretch of success to make it 2-2. First, senior defenseman Cam Gaylor scored off a feed from senior defenseman Jason Marin 4:29 in. Next, senior defenseman Ryan Murphy beat Emrick on a power play with 6:29 remaining in the period to tie it up.

Tri-Town immediately got back on track, with senior Andrew Gaines scoring just 17 seconds later off of passes from senior Zach Roy and junior Mike Schuman.

In the final period, the offense sealed the win by scoring twice in the final three minutes. Roy scored with 2:59 remaining to make it 4-2, stealing a pass and firing a shot into the top right corner of the net. Shuman added a goal with 46 seconds to play, beating sophomore Ryan Groshans in his five-hole.

“Our first two goals came by our second line just grinding it out down low, that’s what the line does,” Fijalkowski said. “The last three guys who scored just made great shots.”

“Our defensive coverage just wasn’t good at times,” Enfield head coach Frank Genovese said. “We weren’t sharp in our own zone. Tri-Town had too many good chances.”

Fijalkowski was very encouraged by the defense’s performance, particularly in the second portion of the game.

“We did a strong job of not allowing their offensive players to get rebounds and making sure they were unable to get down fast. Our familiarity with playing them also helped us make adjustments in the third on penalty kills. Our coaches thought it was one of our better defensive performances.”

Genovese, for his part, did not believe the offense struggled in any way.

“Their goalie just had a big game at the right time. We had good looks at the goal throughout. Our team just happened to be one of the unlucky three,” he said.

Genovese said he was very proud of the great season Enfield had.

“There are going to be a lot of great memories for the players and myself. Winning both the CCC South division and then our conference tournament was a huge accomplishment for the program,” he said. The hearts of our players was huge and they always competed very hard, they have a lot to be proud of. Ending our season on a 7-0-1 run is impressive.”

Tri-Town is returning to the state finals for the first time since 1994, where it lost to Guilford in the II final. Fijalkowski discussed the approach the team will take in playing the Eastern CT Eagles in Saturday’s final based on the squads’ first matchup.

“There’s a good familiarity there. We know they have a lot of skilled forwards and are tough down low. We need to force checks and play extremely hard,” he said.

 

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