Hockey Teams Hope to Again Make Tourney Runs

Three hockey teams are looking to make return after advancing to the state semifinals or further last season. In addition, multiple other teams look poised to make improvements.

Glastonbury returns six seniors from a squad that finished 10-11-1 and won a game in the Division II tournament. The Tomahawks have started 2-0 with shutouts of Branford and New Milford, scoring a combined 10 goals.

Head coach Ken Barse discussed the top players on his team.

“Goalie Brendan O’Connor, who’s our senior captain, is a great leader and one of the best athletes on the team. I cannot remember starting a season with two shutouts. Because we have him in the net, we will be a contender this year,” Barse said. Senior captain and forward Justin Hazard is very strong on the boards and a smart player and leader. Junior forward Adam Poetto has 4 goals in our first two games, and is one of the quickest scoring forwards you will see on the ice. His scoring ability in big games will be the difference this season!”

Enfield-East Granby-Stafford returns a good amount of talent from a squad that advanced to the semifinals of the III tournament and finished 14-8-1. According to head coach Frank Genovese, top players for the Eagles could include senior forward Patrick Fleming, described as “being able to handle any situation”, senior defenseman Zach Hacia, a hard and accurate shooter from the point and solid passer, and junior forward Clay Cowee, “a solid goal scorer who knows how to find the net”.

EEGS is 1-0-1 so far, defeating Staples 3-2 but tying rivals Suffield-Granby-Windsor Locks 4-4. “Both games we created a lot of scoring chances. Good forechecking has led to these chances,” Genovese said. “We need a couple of players to step up their individual play, we have not played a complete game yet.  We’ve had solid periods but we need to put it together for a whole game.”

Genovese said the Eagles want to play a style in which “we pay attention to details at both ends of the rink and are stingy defensively.” He did not want to speculate on the team going on another state tournament run, saying they would focus on just getting better every day.

Tri-Town, which has many players from Ellington High, has a strong core of players from last year’s state finalists, but also lost some talent from that squad. It finished 15-8-1, losing to Eastern CT in the III championship game. Head coach Kyle Fijalkowski said that the forward quartet of seniors Mike Shuman, and Ben Kinsbury and juniors Alex Knisley and Sam Teel would lead the offense, saying they move and shoot the puck quite well. The four combined for 16 points in the first two games. Junior Nick Dannesfelser was described as having “both scoring ability and lock-down defensive skills.”

Tri-Town had an impressive win in its opener, beating the Redhawks 5-0, but lost the next day to Woodstock 6-5 in overtime.

“In our first two games and our scrimmages, we played some great team defense. I’m very happy with our effort in our opener and the way the guys responded playing the very next day after a long bus trip. We were right there all the way to the end,” Fijalkowski said. “For the most part we are doing exactly what we want to be doing. There have been a few short lapses that have costed us some goals as well as a lack of discipline when it comes to penalties. Staying out of the box and staying focused for the full game with no letdowns is what is going to propel us to a very good team.”  

Fijalkowski discussed the approach the Knights want to take on offense and defense.

“Our team philosophy starts with team defense. We want to keep everything to the outside and work as a unit to cause turnovers and rushes going the other way. Offensively, we want to wear down the other team with a relentless forecheck, get plenty of shots and crash the net for rebounds.”

The maturation process for Tri-Town’s younger players has looked promising so far.

“The younger guys are definitely going to need to step up quickly for us to be good right away,” Fijalkowski said. “Most of our younger players are quite mature so it has been good thus far. I think the competition amongst them has also paid dividends.” 

East Catholic has already improved on last season’s winless record by defeating E.O. Smith 4-3 in its opener. The Eagles lost to Northwest Catholic.

“I thought we have played decent in the first 2 games. We have yet to play 45 minutes doing everything that is necessary to be a factor in the CCC North as well as the D2 level,” head coach Joey Trenholm said. “If everyone buys in to what this team can accomplish, the team will have a successful season.”

East Catholic has a very young team, and Trenholm discussed the questions facing the players as they try to grow and improve over the season.

“The success of this season will depend on how hard we want to work during the course of the season. Are we going to be content being in close games or do we want to take the next step? Do we want to be a good team or do we want to take it to the next level? Now that the returning guys have got a taste of what it’s like to win, do they want to continue to work hard for more?  If we continue to work hard every day in practice with the mindset to get better on a daily basis, there are a lot of opportunities that lie in front of this team.”

Highly-experienced South Windsor, which has 8 seniors, appears to have a good possibility in improving upon last season, when the Bobcats were 8-12-2 and won a tournament game. South Windsor is 1-1, with a 4-1 triumph against North Branford.

Suffield-Granby-Windsor Locks (SGWL) only match was its tie against EEGS. The Wildcats, who opted not to compete in the state tournament last year after going 8-11-2, returns much of the talent from that squad, and has dropped to Division II. Senior Connor Matthews scored 11 goals and had 19 points last season, while Tyler Gadzik earned 13 saves and 17 points. Senior Ryan Antowiak should be their top defenseman. Matthews scored and had two assists against EEGS, while Gadzik and junior Remington Ferrari both had one of each.  

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