Conard will face off with rival Newington on Friday.
By Paul Palmer
It wasn’t pretty – 19 penalties between the two sides – but it got the job done.
The Conard Red Wolves boys hockey team shut out the Enfield Co-op 4-0 at Veterans Memorial Rink in West Hartford behind some strong defensive play to earn a trip to the CCC final. Goalie Evan Ittleson and the rest of the defense turned away every one of the visitors’ shots on net. “Our defense gave up just one odd-man rush all game,” said Conard coach Jason Olson. “They didn’t give up many threats. Everyone back-checked hard.”
Perhaps it was a sign of things to come when just 31 seconds into the game Enfield’s Logan Humiston took a holding call when he tangled behind his team’s net with a Conard player as the puck was moving up ice. Conard did not convert, and Eagles goalie Tommy Terhune was focused early on stopping scoring bids from Tyler West and later from Aiden Emery to keep the game scoreless. The Red Wolves would get the game’s first goal when freshman Torin McGoldrick paid off an Enfield turnover. “We were fore-checking and Brady Narus threw a backhander to me and I scored,” said McGoldrick of the opener.
Both teams were frequent sitters in the penalty box as a total of five roughing calls were made as part of the opening 15:00. That is one fewer than the total shots Enfield was credited with in the first.
The second brought more penalties early on. But no scoring. Gavin McGowan had a good scoring chance from the blue line when he let go a wrist shot while using a defender as a screen. Terhune was able to track it and make the glove save and hold it for the faceoff. Conard did manage to put some pressure on the Enfield goal, but an errant clearing pass led to a good Eagles scoring chance that was denied. Conard was called for hooking at 7:30, but managed to kill off the penalty.
The game may have turned in the second when Gavin Higgins of Enfield took back-to-back penalties just 3:30 apart. The visitors managed to kill off the first, but Conard made them pay quickly on the second. Just :05 in, Conard won the faceoff and Nolan Trent found Emery who scored the powerplay goal for the 2-0 lead. The Red Wolves would add one more when McGowan took a pass from Nolan Trent and his shot ended up beating Terhune in goal.
“Nolan’s saucer pass came to me and I saw Torin in front for the tip-in,” said the senior defenseman. But the shot got through and went in.” Conard outshot Enfield 9-6 in the second, but was also called for four penalties to Enfield’s one.
Both teams started the third by taking penalties early when the game was chippy with a lot of hitting and late pushing after the whistle. Narus would add a goal to his earlier assist when he picked up a loose puck, carried it into the Enfield zone on the breakaway and buried his shot glove side for the 4-0 lead.
Neither team would score again, but there were plenty of trips to the penalty box for each side before the final horn sounded and Conard had the 4-0 win. “It was extremely frustrating in the third,” said Conard’s coach Olsen of all the special teams play. “You can’t get into a flow and a lot of guys that don’t play special teams get buried on the bench.”
As for the emotion of the game, Olson chalked it up to the two teams having just played on Saturday and added he doesn’t expect any carryover from his players on Friday in the final.
The win sets up the next chapter in the Newington/Conard hockey rivalry. The Nor’Easters beat Conard in the state final last year and then won the first matchup this season. Conard won the second head-to-head in overtime. Friday’s third meeting of the season at UConn in the title game will be just the latest chapter.
“There is a rivalry aspect but this team thrives off that ,”said Olson of his players. “They will be excited about it.” From his freshmen like McGoldrick to his seniors like McGowan, the players know they will be ready. “We have to come out fast and find ways to put the puck in the net,” said McGoldrick. “We are amped,” added McGowan. “ We have a lot to prove and hope to not make it close this time.”
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