Schools Sports

Conard Boys Deliver a Message in CCC Hockey Semifinal

Goalie Blake Ittleson celebrates the win with teammates Nick Paolitto (4) and Garrettt Selsted (9). Conard vs. Enfield. Boys hockey CCC semifinal. Feb. 28, 2024. Photo credit: Paul Palmer

Conard hosted Enfield at Veterans Rink in West Hartford on Wednesday night in the CCC boys hockey semifinals.

Sports reporting is sponsored by Keating Agency Insurance


Aiden Emery celebrates his goal in the first period. Conard vs. Enfield. Boys hockey CCC semifinal. Feb. 28, 2024. Photo credit: Paul Palmer

By Paul Palmer

If the message did not get through during the regular season, there should be no doubt how dangerous the Conard boys hockey team is. A dominating 5-1 performance Wednesday night against Enfield moves the Red Wolves into the CCC final against Newington.

The No. 1-seeded Red Wolves were dominant in almost every aspect of the game with Enfield. Conard got a chance to work on every aspect of their game – event strength, power play and short-handed. Just :17 into the game, the Eagles took a holding penalty, putting the hosts on the power play. Conard controlled the puck and kept it in the offensive zone for most of the advantage.

Aiden Emery scored the game’s first goal, only to be denied by a glove save from goalie Nicholas Gonzalez. With the teams back at even strength, it was two of the Red Wolves most dangerous offensive weapons teaming up for the game’s first marker. Emery took a shot on goal that Noland Trend tipped past Gonzalez and it was 1-0 less than 3:00 in.

Nolan Trent moves in on the goal with Enfield’s Cooper Love (4) on his back. Conard vs. Enfield. Boys hockey CCC semifinal. Feb. 28, 2024. Photo credit: Paul Palmer

Another power play for Conard went scoreless before Enfield had its best chance to score in the first. Coming in on a 2-on-1, the Eagles were foiled when the backchecking pressure forced a shot that goalie Blake Ittleson was able to easily handle. Forty-six seconds later it was Emery scoring the game’s second goal from the slot unassisted. In that period, Enfield could have charged Conard rent for the amount of time they spent in the offensive zone, but to their credit only surrendered two goals.

“I thought we were pretty solid early on,” said Conard coach Jason Olson.

The Eagles nearly got one back just :30 into the second period when Ittleson was challenged short side off a turnover, but the senior stood his ground. His offense returned the favor when just :45 into the second, Julian Schneider scored following a faceoff in the Enfield zone with an assist to Tyler West.

Enfield goalie Nick Gonzalez smothers the loose puck just ahead of Conard’s Jack Eisenberg (12). Conard vs. Enfield. Boys hockey CCC semifinal. Feb. 28, 2024. Photo credit: Paul Palmer

One of those areas where Conard could do better showed its head later in the second. They took a penalty at 12:07, giving Enfield a chance to regain some momentum, but Ittleson and the defense were strong. The Red Wolves then were called  for too many men on the ice, giving Enfield a brief two-man advantage and a face-off in the Conard defensive zone.

Once again it was the penalty killing unit doing the hard work, and Ittleson backstopping it all, especially with a glove save on Gavin Higgins with :58 to go in the second penalty. They managed to kill off the rest of the penalty, but with 7:45 to go Adam Desmarais took a retaliatory cross-checking penalty to put Conard down a man once again.

Schneider and West nearly connected on a bang-bang shorthanded bid. Coming in 2-on-1 Schneider went left and when the defender went down to take away the cross-ice pass to West, he floated a perfect aerial to West who was crashing in from the right. West managed to glove the puck to his stick, but he was right on top of Gonzalez who managed to block the shot. The play, however, got the very vocal student section on its feet for the Red Wolves.

Nolan Trent’s bid for a hatrick was denied by goalie Nick Gonzalez. Conard vs. Enfield. Boys hockey CCC semifinal. Feb. 28, 2024. Photo credit: Paul Palmer

Back at even strength, Enfield managed to put together more offense and Ittleson was forced to make a pad-save on Colin Tavemier and then a glove save from a point shot moment later.

With 2:35 to go Enfield took a hooking penalty and Conard made them pay in just nine seconds in on a goal-of-the-year candidate. After the draw, Nick Paolitto controlled the puck at the right point. Trent came in from the left side unmarked – and Paolitto snapped a pass right onto his stick. Trent controlled it as he went across the face of Gonzalez in goal, going backhand-forehand before sliding it into the net.

Dylan Smith keeps Sawyer Pequita away from his goal and goalie Blake Ittleson. Conard vs. Enfield. Boys hockey CCC semifinal. Feb. 28, 2024. Photo credit: Paul Palmer

Henry Tamaccio – who works hard every game – was finally rewarded with a goal of his own when he batted a puck out of the air past the Enfield goalie with 1:35 to go and it was a 5-0 score after two. Part of the issue with penalties was Conard had started mixing line combinations and Olson said sometimes that leads to mistakes. On the upside, it gave his PK unit a lot of work.

“We have been trying to put more emphasis on penalty killing,” he said. “I thought they did a good job on defense and then trying to produce offense off it.”

Torin McGoldrick of Conard and Chase Stebbins of Enfield watch where Stebbins’ shot went. Conard vs. Enfield. Boys hockey CCC semifinal. Feb. 28, 2024. Photo credit: Paul Palmer

Over the final 15 minutes, the goals for Conard were to try to preserve the shutout, and to make sure no one got hurt – they managed to do one of those things. Enfield had its best period of the game in the third, producing many more chances on offense and playing a tighter defense. Trent nearly picked up the hat trick goal off a backhand pass from Emery, but the shot was blocked by Gonzalez. With just under 6:00 to play, Enfield finally got one past Ittleson when a rebound off a pad save went right to the tape of Higgins’ stick and he did not make a mistake as he buried it into the back of the net.

Overall, Olson is pleased with the outcome and how his team is playing at a critical time of the year. “We are playing well, scoring a ton – our goal scorers are scoring, and that is what you want.”

Blake Ittleson makes sure there is no rebound for Enfield’s Gavin Higgins. Conard vs. Enfield. Boys hockey CCC semifinal. Feb. 28, 2024. Photo credit: Paul Palmer

Game Notes

  • Conard improves to 17-2-1 and is on a seven-game win-streak.
  • The Red Wolves finals matchup with Newington at the International Skating Center in Simsbury on Friday is the third  meeting between the teams this season. Conard won 7-2 on and 8-1 earlier in February.
  • Conard will open play in the state tournament at home on Monday against … Enfield. It will be the fourth meeting of the two sides this season, with Conard having won the first three (4-0, 7-1, 5-1). “We’d like to get out of our conference,” Olson said of the matchups with both squads. “But at least you know who to prepare for.”
  • As of Wednesday night, Conard is ranked No. 3, and Suffield is No. 2 in the Division II rankings … But there is a backstory at play. Conard had been ahead of Suffield, but when it was discovered that 18-win East Haven had used an in eligible player, 13 of the wins when the player was used, became losses. One of those was to, you guessed it, Suffield. They got the win and the schedule points to leapfrog the Red Wolves by 3 points.

Conard goalie Blake Ittleson and teammate Aiden Emery get ready for the second period against Enfield. Conard vs. Enfield. Boys hockey CCC semifinal. Feb. 28, 2024. Photo credit: Paul Palmer

Like what you see here? Click here to subscribe to We-Ha’s newsletter so you’ll always be in the know about what’s happening in West Hartford! Click the blue button below to become a supporter of We-Ha.com and our efforts to continue producing quality journalism.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

About the author


We-Ha.com is the place to go for the latest information about West Hartford – a town that "has it all"! We-Ha.com is part of and proud of our community, and we bring a hyperlocal focus to news and features about the people, schools, businesses, real estate, sports, restaurants, charitable events, arts, and more. Contact us at: [email protected] or [email protected].

Leave a Comment

Translate »