Tri-Town falls behind early and falls short in Division III Hockey Final

By Matt Stevens

NEW HAVEN – Three early goals by Eastern CT put Tri-Town in an early hole in the CIAC Division III boys hockey championship game, and the TerrorCats were unable able to dig out on the way to a 7-3 defeat at Ingalls Rink Saturday.

Eastern’s Quenten Dean started the scoring 11:07 to remaining in the first. Will Cannella and Ethan Stewart followed with goals at 5:57 and 4:45 respectively. Tri-Town’s Michael Shuman helped the TerrorCats avoid a scoreless period with a goal with just 9.5 seconds remaining. The score allowed Tri-Town to carry a bit of momentum into the second, but Eastern CT’s attack on the offensive end was relentless.

“We started out flat, but we got one at the end of the first period. It was a big goal – a big momentum boost,” Tri-Town coach Kyle Fijalkowski said. Indeed, Tri-Town out-shot Eastern in the second, but more of the Eagles’ goals found the net, including one by Kevin Close.

Tri-Town’s Andrew Gaines scored with 4:13 to go in the second, but that was followed just 1:11 later by Eastern’s fifth goal. Eastern CT, which is comprised of players from East Lyme, Fitch, Ledyard, Waterford and Hale Ray High Schools, had regained the momentum and was on its way to a state championship celebration.

“I thought we came out flying in the second, but they put one in on us, we got one back, but they put another one in,” Fijalkowski said.

In the third period, Eastern’s Kevin Close got his hat trick and put the game out of reach with two more goals. Tri-town’s Alexander Knisley added another goal with just 2:06 to go, but it was too little, too late.

Fijalkowski, in his first year as head coach with Tri-Town (Ellington-East Granby-Somers), said he was impressed with what his team accomplished.

“We got better every game,” he said. “They bought into everything that I wanted to do with the team. We changed the culture of the team. These kids are doing everything the right way. I couldn’t be prouder of them. Obviously, we got to the big stage, and came up just a bit short.”

While the team will lose some offensive weapons to graduation, the coach said he thinks the TerrorCats will be strong again next year.

“We do have some great players coming back. I told them what the seniors did for the program was set the bar high for Tri-Town hockey.”

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