WEST HARTFORD - Hall-Southington ice hockey coach Brain Cannon sat in his office after Thursdayâ€™s game and didnâ€™t mince words - the Warrior-Knights are missing an integral part of their team.
The loss of senior captain and defenseman Drew Booth, who suffered season-ending injuries on Feb. 24, has tested Hall-Southington both mentally and physically over the past week with Boothâ€™s injuries having left a serious mark on the team.
Now, it will just be a matter if the Warrior-Knights can overcome his absence, not only from a leadership perspective, but what he brought skill-set wise to the ice.
â€śI think the kids are emotionally and physically drained,â€ť Cannon said after Hall-Southington beat E.O. Smith-Tolland Thursday afternoon. â€śWe donâ€™t have the jump we normally have, the decision making wasnâ€™t there and weâ€™re just playing like a fatigued team. I just think they are emotionally tired, I know I am certainly, and they feel things more than I do.â€ť
At times, there has been a noticeable difference in Hall-Southingtonâ€™s play.
The team has gotten off to slow starts in each of its last two games without Booth, falling behind both times early.
Thursday night, a 4-3 win, was a bit better than Monday nightâ€™s game against Sheehan when the Warrior-Knights lost 6-3.
Cannon understands the circumstances, but with the Division II state tournament starting up next week, Hall-Southington will have to keep its focus on the game.
â€śFor two hours the guys need to black out the outside world and everything thatâ€™s going on and just focus on putting in a good, hard effort in the game,â€ť Cannon said. â€śItâ€™s not that the kids arenâ€™t trying they just donâ€™t have the energy. Their minds are tired, their legs are tired, so weâ€™ll see what happens.â€ť
Booth is now out of the ICU, but is spending most of his days asleep and trying to recover. The family is hopeful that Booth will be released from the hospital and return home at the end of the week.
â€śOur thoughts are all with Drew and his family,â€ť sophomore forward Michael DiPietro said. â€śBut itâ€™s hard for us too. Weâ€™re all mentally broken down by it, but you have to overcome these things. Stuff happens in life, obstacles are thrown your way, itâ€™s just all about how you overcome it. You canâ€™t do anything, just do whatâ€™s in your control and we just wish Drew the best.â€ť
â€śMentally itâ€™s really been something else,â€ť fellow senior captain Richard Mitchell added. â€śI donâ€™t think any of us in the locker room have experienced something like this before in our lives. And to have it happen at such an unfortunate time, right before the playoffs and such an important game.â€ť
The mental toughness of Hall-Southington has been tested, and the Warrior-Knights have been trying their best. Different players are stepping up to try to fill in Boothâ€™s position, but unfortunately, in some aspects, it is a position that cannot be filled easily.
â€śDrew was our stability back there, heâ€™s a wide-out gambling player,â€ť Cannon said. â€śStability is almost a funny word to use about his game, but he is such a recovery artist. He adds so much to our offense, he adds so much to the effort that is made our there.â€ť
Booth has had an ability to handle adversity, Cannon said. If he messed up during a game, he was able to put it in his back pocket and not let it affect him.
â€śHe doesnâ€™t get down, he doesnâ€™t stomp his feet on the bench or whack his stick against something, he lets it burn,â€ť Cannon said. â€śHe goes out and he puts it into that much more of an effort the next time heâ€™s out on the ice. There are only so many kids that are like that.â€ť
Although Boothâ€™s teammates are doing the best they can, Cannon knows his team is going to have to play a lot better going forward.
â€śWere going to be foddered if we donâ€™t snap out of it,â€ť Cannon said. â€śWhether we can or not, I donâ€™t know. These kids are good kids and right now that is a little bit to their detriment because they canâ€™t just put this thing aside. Itâ€™s affecting them and only seeing what they put out on the ice on Saturdayâ€™s going to tell us where they are.â€ť
Shelby Iava can be reached at (860) 801-5096 or firstname.lastname@example.org