Conard boys hockey seniors were honored Saturday as they hosted Housatonic at Veterans Memorial Rink in West Hartford.
By Paul Palmer
It hasn’t been an easy four years for the seniors on Conard High Schools’ varsity boys hockey team.
In the last two seasons the Chieftains won only six of 39 games. But that didn’t seem to matter on Saturday as the team honored its seven seniors before the game, and then went out and dominated the Housatonic co-op (Housatonic-NW-Wamogo-Torrington) 8-1 to improve to 3-4 on the season.
Seniors Aiden Shaffer and Owen McGoldrick each scored twice as did junior Beau Bacon.
McGoldrick entered the game with seven goals on the season, but Shaffer had suffered some “tough puck luck” according to his coach, with only three goals entering Saturday.
“He hit a lot of posts all season long,” said Coach Jason Olson of his center man. Shaffer’s two goals were good, but “I wanted it so badly,” Shaffer said of the elusive hat trick goal.
Finding the net was not a problem for Conard in this game. Freshman Emory Sirman, who was strong on the puck all game, opened the scoring 4:24 into the first when he converted a 2-on-2 breakaway with a wrist shot.
The Chieftains also played solid defense most of the game.
Housatonic’s Liam Baca was shut down in a 1-on-1 rush by Conard’s Colum Flaherty, then it was Flaherty delivering a big check along the boards separating a Mountaineers player from the puck. Back in the offensive zone, Brian Frehl would find teammate Jack Hodgson with a sweet cross ice pass, and Hodgson buried the shot for the 2-0 lead.
Conard outshot their opponents 16-3 in the opening 15 minutes, having several good scoring chances.
In the second, Conard was back on the attack and just 3:30 in, nearly made it a three-goal lead when Shaffer chipped a pass from Fehl from behind the net just over the crossbar. Four minutes later came one of the nicest goals of the day when McGoldrick muscled his way around a Housy defender, and drove short side to the goal, beating the goalie and surprising himself.
“I tried to get it past the chaos in front,” McGoldrick said of his tally. “I thought they froze the puck and was skating towards our bench when they started to cheer.”
The joy was short-lived though as the Mountaineers put together their best minutes of offensive hockey right after that and scored their only goal just three minutes after McGoldrick’s. But Conard and Shaffer had the answer as the senior center broke though the Housatonic offensive pressure, skated along the right-hand boards, eluded a defender, and snapped home Conard’s fourth goal.
“It felt amazing this Senior Day to score twice,” Shaffer said. The Chieftains again dominated the offensive side of the game, surrendering just four shots on goal while taking 15 of their ow in the second period.
The game score, and the fact that it was Senior Day, allowed Olson to give minutes to some of his players who normally don’t get a lot of ice time. Olson started five seniors in the first and third periods as well as several others to open the middle frame.
“We got to see kids that put in the work every day and don’t always get opportunities to play,” he said.
The third period saw Conard again dominate on offense and defense. Just 1:47 into the period Hodgson converted on a mini-break, and less than two minutes later Bacon would pick up the first goal of his career from low in front.
Thirty-eight seconds later, Bacon the junior winger, would net his second career marker off a feed from Jack Wenz.
Housatonic had a chance on the power play just under halfway into the third but strong work from Emory Sirman and Fehl kept them bottled up in their own end before Ryan Dorn would get the visitor’s best opportunity with the man advantage as he crashed in alone on the wing, only to be denied by Conard goalie Graydon Selstad.
Later in the period Selstad’s strong save led to Shaffer rushing the puck up ice and finding senior Josh Sirman whose rebound was knocked in by McGoldrick for his second goal of the game with just 29 seconds remaining,
After the game Shaffer and McGoldrick – two of the senior captains – reflected on what it has meant to them to be a part of the Chieftains team for four years.
“The friends I have made, the brotherhood is just great,” said Shaffer of the bonding experience with his teammates. “Just sitting in the locker room talking with my teammates is what I’ll remember,” added McGoldrick.
Conard dominated in shots 58-14, never giving up more than seven shots on goal in any single period.
The Chieftains will next meet Northeastern on the road Monday as they look to even their record to 4-4 on the season.
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