Hall hosted the Southington Co-op on Wednesday at Veterans Rink in West Hartford.
By Paul Palmer
Most high schoolers are enjoying the chance to sleep late during their holiday break.
The Hall Titans boys hockey team looked like they forgot to set their alarm clocks for the second of two morning matinees when they met the Southington Co-op Wednesday. Fortunately for them, senior goalie Aeden Mallett was awake, alert, and on his game as he turned away dozens of Knights’ scoring chances to help the Titans earn a 6-3 win.
“It felt like we forgot to set our alarm,” said second year coach Colin O’Connor. “Southington came out and wanted the puck more.”
The visitors – a co-op of players from Southington, Coginchaug, and Westbrook – had the better of play for most of the first period and Mallett was called on several times to keep the puck out of his net. With just under half of the period gone, the visiting Knights scored the opening goal when Drew Nafis took advantage of a Hall defensive zone turnover and scored high glove side for the 1-0 lead.
Hall would finally get its game going with 1:17 left when Hudson Hollander’s wrist shot from the right faceoff circle ,off a Zach Gerken cross ice pass, beat goalie Max Scirocco.
Southington had two good scoring chances with just under 2 minutes to play, taking advantage of back-to-back Hall turnovers. Fortunately for Hall, Mallett was there to keep things knotted up. With just 39 seconds left it was Southington with the miscue on defense and Ben Gerken converted it into the go-ahead goal and Hall took a 2-1 lead into the locker room.
Both sides had good opportunities early in the second and the Titans padded their lead with just 1:06 gone on the clock. Charles Croce (1 goal, 2 assists) took Adam Busi’s feed in a two-on-one and beat Sciorcco to make it 3-1 Hall.
Mallett and the Titans defense would be tested just under 5 minutes into the period when they were called for back-to-back penalties – the second coming with just :01 left on the original call. Southington maintained good puck discipline and controlled things in the attacking zone, but they could not find a way past Mallett.
Less than a minute after killing off the second penalty, Hall would make it a three-goal lead. Zach Gerken would add a goal to his earlier assist when his shot deflected off a defender and over Scirocco’s shoulder. Busi and Harry Feingold would pick up the helpers on the goal.
Much like the first period, Southington put on the pressure in an effort to get back into the game late in the second period. Mallett was forced to make a series of saves in a 30-second span – a few after he had lost his stick – to keep it a 4-1 lead heading into the break.
“Aeden has been the backbone of the team,” said his coach. “We learned to rely on him last year and the start of this season, too.”
The final 15:00 saw a more physical Knights team punish Hall skaters for each puck they went after. Two big blue line hits resulted in Hall losing possession in the attacking zone. Using the momentum it was building, Southington stayed hungry and was nearly rewarded when Drew Turner won a race for a loose puck but his shot was blocked away by Mallett.
Southington (0-4) would get the game’s next goal when Gabe Mohr was given credit for a score that came off another Hall defensive zone turnover. It looked like Mallett had squeezed the puck between his pads, but it managed to trickle though and across the goal line.
Hall’s Tommy Finley would restore the three-goal lead when he sidestepped an attempted big hit at the blue line and rifled a shot into the upper part of the net to make it 5-2 Titans. Each team would add a tally – Hall’s Croce scoring an empty netter with 9 seconds to go to make it a 6-3 win for Hall.
“Between the first and second periods we acknowledged that we slept through most of the first,” O’Connor said of his players. “We knew we need to use our speed versus their short bench.”
O’Connor’s team fell to Conard 7-4 on Monday for its only loss in four outings so far this season. They meet Sheehan on Friday on the road and then are off for eight days before hosting the Suffield-Granby-Windsor Locks Co-op team on Jan. 8 at Veterans Rink.
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