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Northwest Catholic Stays Perfect with Gritty Win Over Conard

Conard vs. Northwest Catholic boys ice hockey. Dec. 29, 2018. Photo credit: Marlon Pitter

Northwest Catholic took down crosstown rival Conard on Saturday as both teams trend in opposite directions early in the season.

By Marlon Pitter

Northwest Catholic has yet to play a perfect hockey game this season, according to Lions forward Brennan Horn.

But through five games, the team’s record is just that: perfect.

Despite taking 10 of the 19 penalties assessed in the game, Northwest Catholic defeated Conard 4-1 at Veterans Memorial Rink in West Hartford Saturday afternoon. Horn (two goals, assist) and Sean Macary (three assists) each led the way for the Lions with three-point performances, helping the team improve to 5-0.

Heading into the third period with a 2-1 lead, Northwest Catholic broke the game open with two power-play goals 20 seconds apart.

Connor Melanson scored from just outside the crease on a cross-ice pass from Nathan Loitz to make it a 3-1 game with 13:02 to play. Horn scored on the rush at the 12:42 mark to give the Lions a comfortable 4-1 lead.

The Chieftains, who generated pressure and scored in the second period, had little success in the third trying to generate a comeback.

Northwest Catholic head coach Dan Melanson said he told his team to continue playing their style of hockey in the third period to close out the game.

“At the end of the day, I tell them, ‘You gotta keep your head,’” he said. “‘You can’t drop down to their level. You can’t play their game. We play ours. We go out and we play hockey. That’s what we do. We’re not going to worry about officiating. We’re not going to worry about what they’re doing. Just go out and play your game,’ and they ended up doing it.”

Horn scored a power-play goal with 9:18 remaining in the first period to put Northwest Catholic up 1-0. Nick Salcedo put the Lions ahead 2-0 two minutes later. Macary assisted on both tallies.

The Chieftains responded quickly in the second period as Brendan Battiston scored on the power play to cut the Lions’ lead in half. Owen Fernandez and Will Macdonald earned assists on the goal.

Both teams dug holes for themselves with infractions, either taking matching minor penalties committing penalties on power plays, eliminating their man advantages. While Conard saw one fewer trip to the penalty box, Northwest Catholic did more with its opportunities.

The Chieftains took penalties for unsportsmanlike conduct, holding, charging, roughing, interference, and hooking. The Lions’ penalties were unsportsmanlike conduct, cross-checking, elbowing, hooking, interference, tripping, and roughing.

No major penalties or game misconducts were assessed to either team.

Despite the bevy of calls, Dan Melanson knows he can only worry about how his team is playing.

“There was one penalty I said that was unacceptable,” he said. “It was after they called a penalty [on Conard] and we went up and confronted and they got matching [penalties]. That’s unacceptable. I don’t tolerate lazy penalties, unsportsmanlike penalties, dirty penalties. Things that happen during the game, they happen, but a lot of them, I don’t look at them as penalties. We all play different levels of hockey and depending on where the ref played or what he’s used to, that’s how he’s going to call the game.”

Northwest Catholic is off to a hot start, but the team’s defense has shown room for improvement early on, Dan Melanson said.

“We learned from our first game – we let up five goals and they didn’t earn one of them. We handed them the goals,” he said. “If a team’s going to score goals, make them earn it.”

Expectations for the Lions are lofty, but Horn has one goal in mind as the season continues.

“Our end goal is winning a championship, and nothing less is acceptable,” said Horn.

The Lions look to protect their unblemished record at home against New Canaan (2-3) at International Skating Center of Connecticut in Simsbury on Saturday night at 6:10 p.m.

Conard, a Division II state semifinalist last year, finds itself 0-3-1 through four games. The Chieftains will look to earn their first win of the season Wednesday night at home against South Windsor (4-2). Puck drop is set for 7:30 p.m.

Conard head coach Chris Tornaquindici declined to comment after the game.

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Marlon Pitter

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