Nothing quite goes together like winter and hockey season.
And as always, the area boasts two successful teams looking to once again make deep playoff runs.
Of course, a new season brings new expectations and new results. The Newington-Berlin co-op brings back plenty of experience as it looks to show it is a contender in Division III after a rough regular season last year, while Hall-Southington, last season’s runner-up in Division III, will be making the jump to Division II. It certainly makes for some interesting storylines.
With that being said, here is a closer look at the local teams:
Head Coach: David Harackiewicz (26th season, 305-207-16)
Last Year: 3-15-3
Key Losses: Matt Roberts, Alex Borselle
Key Returnees: Kyle Buchar (sr., forward), Cade Palladino (sr., forward), Matt Lavoie (jr., forward), Pat Doherty (jr. defenseman), Justin Stergos (so., defenseman), Ethan Ranger (jr. forward), Adam Belair (sr., goaltender).
Outlook: Despite a regular season that consisted of more ups than downs, the Newington co-op still managed to qualify for the Division III playoffs, where it eventually fell to rival Hall-Southington - for the third time that season - in overtime 4-3.
Scoring was an issue at times for the co-op, which averaged just 2.1 goals per game last season. In total, Newington-Berlin scored three or more goals in just six of its 20 games, three of which were losses.
But Newington was on the younger side last season and as a result was able to give plenty of its players some quality ice time. The co-op lost just two key players in Matt Roberts and Alex Broselle and brings back a couple of lines filled with upperclassmen. Overall, it is this experience that has head coach David Harackiewicz confident his team will be a contender in Division III once again.
Junior forward Matt Lavoie returns as the leading point getter with 22 (6 goals, 16 assists) last season and figures to be an important part of the team’s offense once again. He will be joined by a pair of senior forwards in Kyle Buchar (6 points in 2016-17) and Cade Palladino (17 points).
Pat Doherty and Justin Stergos are a pair that figures to anchor the defense in front of returning goaltender Adam Belair.
Still, if there was one thing Harackiewicz believes his team needs to improve on, it’s its consistency as last season demonstrated. But overall, this could be an exciting season for the Newington co-op.
Head Coach: Brian Cannon (9th season, 74-87-9)
Last Year: 9-8-3, Division III runner-up
Key Losses: Jeremy Fortin, Dusty Kilgore, Colby Glidden
Key Returnees: Zach Monti (sr., goaltender), Miles Aronow (sr., forward), Drew Booth (sr., defenseman), William Carpenter (sr., forward), Graham Kennedy (sr., forward), Jacob Mohr (sr., forward), Brendan Moore (sr., defenseman), Richard Mitchell IV (sr., defenseman), Michael DiPietro (jr., forward), Christopher Gambardella (jr., defenseman)
Outlook: It was quite a season for Hall-Southington last year. It was certainly a historic one.
After a 9-8-3 regular season, the Warrior-Knights made their first ever appearance in a title game since forming the co-op in 2009, eventually falling to Woodstock Academy in the Division III championship 7-3.
But Hall-Southington won’t have a chance to attempt a run at the Division III this season. Both the Warrior-Knights and Woodstock Academy were bumped up to Division II, which presents a new set of challenges for the local team. Last season, Hall-Southington went just 1-5-1 playing Division-II competition.
It should help, however, the team brings back a roster full of junior and seniors to possibly mitigate the losses of last season’s captain Jeremy Fortin along with Dusty Kilgore.
The Warrior-Knights have a veteran goaltender in Zach Monti returning between the pipes for a team that gave up more than three goals five times. Junior forward Michael DiPierto, meanwhile, returns as one of the team’s best offensive threats, having been one of the co-op’s top scores last year as a sophomore.
The defense should also see improvement. Senior defenseman Drew Booth was named the team’s captain and will be joined by fellow seniors Richard Mitchell IV, Brendan Moore and junior Chris Gambardella.
Whether or not Hall-Southington will be back in a title game remains to be seen, but it will certainly be worth keeping an eye on.
David Glovach can be reached at (860) 801-5085 or email@example.com