NEW HAVEN - The Hall-Southington boys hockey team tied the game early in the third period but the Warrior-Knights could not hold off Woodstock Academy’s potent offense, as they fell 7-3 in the Division III title game on Saturday at Ingalls Rink at Yale University.
Just nine seconds into the third period, Jeremy Fortin scored Hall-Southington’s third goal of the game to get even with Woodstock. The Warrior-Knights had the momentum and appeared capable of taking their first lead of the game and unseating the top-seeded Centaurs.
“I thought, ‘Hey, maybe we’re going to get some momentum here and go,’” Hall-Southington coach Brian Cannon said about his team’s goal to open the third.
“Once we tied it up, I was like, ‘Got to keep my head in it,’” Hall-Southington goalie Zach Monti said. “But it just fell apart from there.”
With just under six minutes gone, Woodstock took a penalty, giving the Warrior-Knights what ended up being their only power play of the game. But Hall-Southington struggled to get anything going and as the time ticked away in the man advantage, Woodstock’s Nathan DeLuca stole the puck, raced down the ice and buried a shorthanded goal to give his team the one-goal lead.
That goal achieved two things. It completely took the wind out of Hall-Southington’s sails and opened the flood gates for the offensively-gifted Centaurs. Over a stretch of a minute and 17 seconds starting at the 10:35 mark, Woodstock scored another three goals to put the game - and title - well out of reach for the Warrior-Knights.
“I think when we gave up that shorthanded goal, our wheels kind of just fell off,” Cannon said. “We came out and scored that one right in the beginning. [It] gave us hope. I think we were looking good. Then, we kind of botched the power play and then they ended up scoring toward the end of it.
“That one hurt. I think that one was the knife in our back.”
Hall-Southington started the title game much like it started its semifinal win over WMRP - with heavy forecheck. The Warrior-Knights came out with good energy and went after the Centaurs.
Under a minute into the game, they rang a shot off the post, getting a rise out of the Hall-Southington fan section.
Not soon after, Woodstock got its legs and began to punch back. The Centaurs’ speed and strength on the puck helped them get more offensive-zone possession and get more opportunities on Monti.
The two teams went back and forth throughout the period, with Hall-Southington having more extended time in the Woodstock end but the Centaurs had the advantage in shots. But neither team could find the back of the net for most of the first period.
But Woodstock finally broke through when Ryan Black took a pass from Avery Riva, flew into the Hall-Southington zone down the right-wing boards and roofed one over Monti’s glove hand with three seconds and change to play in the first.
In the second period, it was Woodstock’s turn to come out of the locker room hot. The Centaurs took the play to Hall-Southington and put pressure on Monti and the Warrior-Knights defense early.
Just 2:31 into the period, Riva found the back of the Hall-Southington net to give the Centaurs a 2-0 lead.
But just over two minutes later, the Warrior-Knights struck back. Jacob Mohr got the puck in the right corner and, while standing on the goal line, slid a shot past Woodstock goalie Caleb Wilcox to get Hall-Southington on the board.
The second-period momentum was volatile and once again, it shifted the other way. Less than two minutes after Mohr’s tally, DeLuca put the Centaurs back up by two.
Both teams went back and forth for the final eight minutes and change until Hall-Southington got some pressure in the Woodstock zone late. As time was expiring, Fortin threw a shot in front from the side boards and, right before the clock expired, Mohr deflected it in to make the score 3-2. The referees deliberated for a little while before declaring the goal good.
Mohr finished the game with two goals and an assist, Fortin had a goal and two assists and Miles Aronow picked up two helpers as that line accounted for all of Hall-Southington’s points in the game.
“That’s what those guys do,” Cannon said. “High energy, high pace and also play good position. They don’t give up a lot to other teams, mostly because of good offense being good defense. Those guys are always making it tough for teams. They’re all over them on the forecheck and we see what we can pick up on the scraps.”
On the other side, DeLuca had a hat trick and an assist, Avery Riva put up a 2-1-3 line and Ryan Black had one tally plus two assists. William Liscomb had a goal and an assist, freshman Doug Newton picked up a pair of assists and Aidan Boisvert added a helper as well.
While there was plenty of offense, the two goalies had outstanding games. Monti made 25 saves for the Warrior-Knights, while Wilcox had 29. Each goalie had multiple highlight-reel saves and their play was a big reason why the game was tied early in the third period.
“I knew I had to step up this game,” Monti said. “They’re unbelievable on offense and I knew our defense was going to have a tough time. Even though we’ve been playing good, I thought, ‘I’m going to have to stop a lot of shots.’ I figured [there’s] no need to be nervous, we’ve got this.”
This finals appearance is the furthest the Hall-Southington co-op has ever reached in the state tournament and, while it will sting, the loss was not a crushing one for the Warrior-Knights because of the opponent.
“We don’t know what it’s like to be a favored team,” Cannon said. “We’re always clawing our way upward. This is no different. This was almost predetermined but we were hoping that maybe we could stop it from happening. And we couldn’t. This result is no surprise to anybody. But it would’ve been a nice surprise if we could have pulled something out.”
Josh Kestenbaum can be reached at 860-973-1811 or firstname.lastname@example.org
On Twitter: @K_baum30