WEST HARTFORD - The Hall-Southington ice hockey team and Conard have a rivalry that dates back to as long as the players on the team can remember.
So it was only appropriate one would end the other’s season on their shared home ice Tuesday afternoon.
Led by Bryant Caron’s two goals, the 13th-seeded Chieftains ended the fourth-ranked Warrior-Knights’ road back to Yale as Hall-Southington fell 2-1 in the first round of the Division II state tournament.
“It was a really good game but I saw it coming,” Hall-Southington goalkeeper Zachary Monti said. “It’s a huge rivalry. It’ll never be a blow out one way or another.”
After the previous meeting with Conard, when captain and defenseman Drew Booth was taken out due to severe injuries, the Warrior-Knights wanted to make the statement win, but unfortunately for Hall-Southington, it couldn’t find any offense after the first period.
“I thought Conard was a faster team than us today,” Hall-Southington head coach Brian Cannon said. “I thought they covered the ice better than us and all anyone needed was one or two bounces and it could go either way. But I thought we outplayed them the last game we played, but today they outplayed us.”
Cannon, however, admitted afterward he wasn’t surprised with the outcome of the game.
The Warrior-Knights entered the game with no plan, no strategy, they didn’t even hold practice in the last week because games were scheduled every other day. Resting was important.
“The kids don’t need [more practice],” Cannon said. “It’s the end of the year and they know what is expected. They know what they have to do and it’s up to them if to go out and execute. They’ve had a tough week or so and we’re just emotionally drained, they either know it or they don’t. All in all, they looked good today.”
Hall-Southington came out in the first period taking it slow when Michael DiPietro got the Warrior-Knights on the board a little over four minutes into the game off of a pair of passes from Bobby Allan and Miles Aronow.
“We scored first, I loved it,” Cannon said. “I was hoping it was going to get us rolling but they gave it right back not long after.”
Hall-Southington surrendered its only lead Just a minute and a half later, when Caron was fed a pass from Liam Lacroix, tying the game 1-1.
The remainder of the first period was scoreless and finding the back of the net proved to be difficult for both teams as the game continued.
Both Hall-Southington and Conard had multiple scoring opportunities throughout the length of the game. The Warrior-Knights took 39 shots on goal while the Chieftains had 34.
In the midst of the game, Booth made his appearance back at Veteran’s Memorial Rink to cheer on the rest of his team.
“I didn’t expect to see Booth here today,” Cannon said. “He still has a lot of sensitivity when it comes to light, I’m glad he was here. I hope he doesn’t feel too bad when he gets out of here. I thought it was a hugely gracious gesture on the part of [Conard’s] Brendon Battiston, basically recused himself from the game and as I said to someone else, ‘that’s a kid making a man’s decision.’ It was very hard for him I’m sure, but that kid is a ball of passion and he wants to be out there playing.”
But Conard was just fine without him. The Chieftains’ second goal was off of another pass from Lacroix to Caron, breaking the tie in the second period.
The third period was more about the goalies.
Monti was pressured throughout the length of the entire third, as the Chieftains kept the puck in Warrior-Knights’ zone for the majority of the period. But Monti didn’t let anything slip by him.
Monti finished the game with 22 saves, while Conard’s Shane Henderson made 12.
With 45 seconds left, and down by one, Hall-Southington pulled Monti off the ice and added another forward to the mix to try to send the game into overtime, but as time expired, the Warrior-Knights were unable to find the back of the net.
Shelby Iava can be reached at (860) 801-5096 or firstname.lastname@example.org