Boys Ice Hockey
Centaurs' season comes to a close
The season could have gone on a little longer for first-year coach Kevin Bisson and the Woodstock Academy boys ice hockey team.
It came to an end on Monday when the 13th-seeded Centaurs fell to No. 4 Branford, 6-2, in a Division II first-round state tournament game at the Northford Ice Pavilion.
“It’s a little disappointing,” Bisson said. “I think, overall, from everyone around here that I spoke to, they felt really good about this year. They feel like we have had a really strong year and the kids, as a whole, felt good about how the season went. It’s frustrating to lose in the first round after a great, strong year, but we have these good feelings as compared to last year when we lost in the first round.”
That’s because the best may still be to come for the Centaurs who finished 12-7-2.
“We laid some groundwork and a foundation that the team as a whole can build off of,” Bisson said. “They’re not going to have to come in and learn a whole bunch of new stuff next year. All the returning guys understand what I ask of them and what I expect. There won’t be, hopefully, a big learning curve for the vast majority of these kids.”
Woodstock Academy team captain Liam McDermott rated the season pretty high.
“I think this season felt just as good as winning the state championship in 2017,” the senior said. “The group of guys in the locker room was spectacular.”
McDermott (4 goals, 7 assists, 11 points) will be one of eight who graduate this season.
Leaving with McDermott will be Matthew Odom (19 goals, 8 assists, 27 points); goalie Dylan Shea; forwards Owen Borski, Tom Catsam and Mason Stewart and defensive players, Ethan Thorpe (3 goals, 5 assists, 8 points) and Connor Starr (1 goal, 6 assists, 7 points).
“We have three senior defenseman so we will have a little work to do on the back end to get that shored up. We definitely have the bodies in the pipeline that we’ve been developing this year.” Bisson said.
Bisson was especially proud of the contributions he received from some freshmen this season.
That goes from the front to the back and includes Kyle Brennan who finished with seven goals, three assists and 10 points.
“He had a really strong year playing in a top-line role. We had him on the ice at the end of the game (versus Branford) for a reason ,” Bisson said.
Freshman Chris Thibault (3 goals, 3 assists, 6 points) also got a lot of minutes up front as did another first-year player, Devin Chadwick.
Defenseman Brendon Hill saw lots of playing time and will be one of the key ingredients behind the blue line when he returns as a sophomore.
Bisson was also pumped about the contributions of sophomore Guerin Favreau (8 goals, 6 assists, 14 points) and junior Doug Newton.
“Guerin goes another step up the ladder as far as leadership and Doug Newton (17 goals, 13 assists, 30 points) led the team in points and we get him back for his senior year,” Bisson said.
The one big question mark will be in front of the net.
Shea vacates the goalie position.
Junior Josh Lavitt made one start between the pipes this season.
“He didn’t get too much playing time here in the last few years on the varsity level,” Bisson said. “The goalie position will be an important piece for us moving forward, but I think the rest is already in place.”
McDermott agreed with that.
“I think moving forward, it’s a really bright future for the program. It was a great team to be able to lead,” McDermott said.
Although the score against Branford Monday may have seemed a little lopsided, it really wasn’t.
The Centaurs played well in the first two periods.
“Two out of three doesn’t get it done,” Bisson said with a sigh.
The Centaurs led Branford 1-0 on a goal by Newton with 3 minutes, 34 seconds left in the opening period.
Thorpe made the rush up the ice, passed to Newton, who did a little stick handling and slipped it under the arm of Branford goalie Greg Lucente.
“That got the juices flowing. The kids were motivated on the bench and the rest of the period, we were just giving it everything we had,” Bisson said.
Robert Lionetti tied the game for the Hornets (15-3-3) 4:22 into the second period, but three minutes later, McDermott found the back of the net.
Thorpe, on the power play, brought the puck into the offensive end, cut back, and passed across to McDermott.
“It was a Liam-like goal; a slap shot from the blue line, going top shelf and one-timing it past (Lucente),” Bisson said.
It would mark the end of the good times for the Centaurs.
David Engstrom knotted the game for Branford with 6:11 left in the second period and the game would go into the final period tied.
“The feeling in the locker room was that, ‘We can win this,’” McDermott said. “We were definitely super-confident in our guys. We just had to protect the goals that we scored and play good team defense- that was the thought. It got discouraging. They got two quick goals, which was our goal (to accomplish), and they beat us to it.”
Max Bunton scored just 39 seconds into the period and then Branford made it a two-goal game 3 ½ minutes later.
A Hornets' shot was stopped by Shea but the rebound slipped to the left side where Zachary Jones, a lefty, was able to get a forehand shot off and into the back of the net.
Bisson called a time out.
“We tried to rally the troops and regain our composure,” Bisson said.
The Centaurs quickly won a faceoff “nice and clean,” according to the Woodstock Academy coach.
Too clean, in fact.
“It went right past our defender and (Lionetti) took off like a rocket and put the nail in the coffin,” Bisson said.
The Hornets enjoyed a 5-2 lead with just under 10 minutes to play.
Bisson pulled Shea with three minutes left to get the man advantage and Lionetti got his hat trick with an open-net goal with 1:21 left in the game.
Bisson espoused optimism in the locker room after the game.
“It didn’t help our seniors any to hear it, but this program has a bright future,” Bisson said.
WA falls in conference semifinals
The Woodstock Academy Centaurs get a little extra unanticipated rest prior to the start of the Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference boys ice hockey state tournament.
The second-seeded Centaurs fell on Tuesday to No. 3 Tri-Town in a Nutmeg Conference tournament semifinal game, 3-2, at the Jahn Ice Rink at Pomfret School.
“I told the guys to turn a negative into a positive. Now, we get a little more rest and, truthfully, should be that much more ready on Monday versus having to play a tough game on Thursday. It’s not exactly the way you want it to go. My guys were very disappointed, myself included, I always want to win. We can turn it into something good,” Woodstock Academy coach Kevin Bisson said.
The Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference has not released the official pairings yet, but the Centaurs will be the 13th seed in Division II and will travel to play No.4 Branford in a first-round game at 4 p.m. Monday at the Northford Ice Pavilion.
“It’s hard to know what to expect on either side. We sit low in the standings, because of the point structure, but if you look at our record (12-6-2), we are right there with them (Branford finished 14-3-3). I got a hard time saying we’re that much behind them, but we can embrace an underdog mentality. We’ve done that most of the year anyway. We will come out fighting on Monday night,” Bisson said.
The Centaurs fell behind Tri-Town early when starting center Ben Kingsbury scored just two minutes into the game for the Knights.
The Centaurs knotted it up a little over a minute later.
Ethan Thorpe caused a turnover in the neutral zone, took the puck into the Tri-Town end and shot it just wide of the net.
Fortunately for Woodstock Academy, the bounce was a good one.
The puck went from the left side of the net to the right and junior Doug Newton was there to tap in his 17th goal of the season.
“The easy part was the tap in, but Doug still had to get to the net to have the opportunity. It was a good effort from all the guys on that one,” Bisson said.
The Knights countered prior to the end of the first period.
Noah Hale sent Tri-Town into the second period with the lead off an assist from Nick Dannenfelser.
Woodstock Academy continued the back-and-forth in the second period when Jake Starr scored for a second time this season.
“It was a full-effort play and plays that are full effort will probably do more especially at this time of year than skill and talent plays,” Bisson said. “He went full force for the puck and drove it home past the goalie.”
Unfortunately for the Centaurs, the Knights got the last laugh on an Alex Knisley goal in the third period that sent them into the Nutmeg Conference championship game against the Eastern Connecticut Eagles.
“We played them pretty well in the first couple of games (the Centaurs posted 6-5 overtime and 4-1 wins over Tri-Town in the regular season), but we knew it would be a tough battle. We came out on the wrong side but I’m not too disappointed with my guys,” Bisson said.
Regular season comes to close for Centaurs
The first regular season for Woodstock Academy boys ice hockey coach Kevin Bisson is in the books.
The Centaurs finished with a 12-5-2 overall mark and a 7-2-1 record in the Nutmeg Conference after a 1-1 tie with the Housatonic cooperative program on Monday in Litchfield.
“Overall, pretty happy, when you consider what the record was last year (8-13) and what we were able to accomplish this year,” Bisson said. “There was a slight disappointment, in some respect, because I feel our record could have been that much better and our standings going into the state playoffs could have been that much better as well. But when you’re looking at coming in, taking over a new group and you’re a new voice, new face, and trying to do some things that they might have not been asked in the past – I feel pretty happy.”
Bisson said it would be hard to pinpoint a facet of the game that he would have liked to see come together better.
Overall, he considered it a learning experience, both for his Centaurs and the opponents alike.
“You look internally and ask ‘What could we have done better?’ You look at the opponents and know that they are also learning about you and how you do things. In that respect, what can we do to make adjustments to alter their game plan against us from what they have seen us do in the past?” Bisson said.
Junior Doug Newton led the team in scoring over the 19 games. The junior finished with 16 goals and 13 assists for 29 points.
Senior Matthew Odom led the team in goals with 19 and finished second in points with 27.
Junior Austen LeDonne (9 goals, 6 assists) finished with 15 points and sophomore Guerin Favreau (8 goals, 6 assists) added 14.
The Centaurs finished up the season on a tough note.
They had to travel to the other side of the state to play the Mountaineers and didn’t have the easiest time getting there.
The coach bus they were traveling in, broke down, and the team did not arrive at the Hotchkiss School rink until just 25 minutes before game time on President’s Day afternoon.
Once on the ice, the Centaurs ran into a hot goalie in John Purdy.
“We’re either running into (a hot goalie) lately or we have to do something different on our end,” Bisson said. “We keep producing the shots and chances, but not the finish.”
The two teams played through a scoreless first period before the Moutaineers, comprised of players from Housatonic Regional, Northwestern Regional, Wamogo Regional and Torrington got on the board with 10:33 left in the second period.
Luke Mollica took a pass from senior Jack McAuliffe to put the Moutaineers (4-11-2) up 1-0.
The Centaurs countered with what Bisson described as a “team-effort goal.”
With 4:12 left in the second period, Favreau prevented Housatonic from clearing its zone by knocking down the puck handler. Newton swept in and took the loose puck, sucking the defender his way and then he flicked it a short two-feet away to freshman Kyle Brennan who scored for the seventh time this season.
“All three factored in and impacted the play and those are the types of goals that, as a coach, you love to watch because you can really see them all connect, work together and get a good end result,” Bisson said.
There were plenty more opportunities for the Centaurs.
Bisson said Woodstock Academy was all over Purdy to the point where the Centaurs didn’t allow a shot on goal in the third period.
“We need a little more finish around the net because we definitely had our chances. The puck was there for us. We just didn’t quite put it home,” Bisson said.
No one found a way to score in the third period or the eight-minute overtime period that followed.
The good news for the Centaurs, they get a week off.
“At this point, it’s extremely important. It’s been a long season with the way the games wound up setting up between the varsity and the JV,” Bisson said. “We’re going to look forward to a couple of days off. These kids have been going on a six-day stretch of games. That’s a lot.”
The Centaurs, who earned the second seed in the conference, will next play on Tuesday at the Jahn Ice Rink at Pomfret School in a Nutmeg Conference semifinal against No. 3 Tri-Town.
The time still has not been determined.
Tri-Town comes in with a 9-8-2 record overall and a 6-4 mark in the Nutmeg Conference.
Woodstock Academy downed Tri-Town 6-5 in overtime in the season opener at Pomfret School on Dec. 15 and 4-1 at the Enfield Twin Rinks on Jan. 11.
“Those were two extremely physical games and took a physical toll on a number of my players. We had a couple of guys get pretty banged up in those matches. It will be nice to have them on our home ice because they had some loud fans, some passionate people, and they will probably travel and try to invade our building. If we can do our thing and try to keep them quiet and make our fans loud – that’s what we’re looking to do. Ultimately against a team like that, it’s composure. They will come in and try to be physical. We have to embrace that style of play, but make sure not to cross the line and let them go to the penalty box,” Bisson said.
WA falls to Eastern CT Eagles
The only problem for the Woodstock Academy boys ice hockey team - it likely is not done with the Eastern Connecticut Eagles yet.
“We told the boys this, if we want to do anything in the postseason, we have to go through the Eagles,” Centaurs coach Kevin Bisson said.
The team comprised of a host of Eastern Connecticut Conference and Shoreline schools has been a thorn in the side of the Centaurs.
The Eagles made it two in a row against the Centaurs on Saturday night with a 7-3 victory at the Jahn Ice Rink at Pomfret School.
The Eagles had beaten the Centaurs earlier in the season, 4-1, at Connecticut College.
The two will likely meet again in the championship game of the Nutmeg Conference next Thursday and it’s also possible the Centaurs could meet the Eagles in a CIAC Division II state tournament contest.
“I think, truthfully, that even though the score got out of hand (Saturday), I think we have a pretty good game plan of how to play them. As long as we stick to it, we could do some damage to them. It’s one thing to say that, it’s another to do it,” Bisson said.
The Eagles (12-5-1, 10-0 Nutmeg Conference) clinched the regular season title in the conference with the victory over the Centaurs on Saturday.
Will Cannella got Eastern Connecticut started with a quick goal just 59 seconds into the game which held up through the first period.
The Centaurs (12-5-1, 7-2) tied it just 1:39 into the second period with a bit of a fluke goal by Kyle Brennan.
“He’s really come on strong,” Bisson said. “It took him a while to get going early but he would be honest about it and say that as a freshman coming in, the first game was a turn of the page from what he had been used to. His confidence has steadily grown, not just in scoring, but in what he does on the ice in general. The way he makes plays, going in and playing the body, playing the physical game as a freshman against bigger seniors and juniors.”
Brennan scored the only goal in the first meeting between the two teams and opened the scoring for the Centaurs in the second meeting.
Brennan tried to throw the puck out to the front of the net with a teammate coming in hard, but it hit the back of an Eagle defender and ricocheted into the net. Brennan was given the credit for his sixth goal of the season.
“We will take them however we can get them,” Bisson said.
The goal fired up the Centaurs.
“That gave us a huge momentum burst. Immediately, we were all over them and on the attack. It was ‘yawning cage’ but unfortunately for us, Austen (LeDonne) hit the post. If that goes in, in the blink of an eye, we go from 1-0 down to 2-1 up and a major momentum swing. Instead, we took our foot off the gas,” Bisson said.
And the Eagles pounced.
The visitors countered with two of their own goals.
Evan Tower scored with 3 ½ minutes left in the period off assists from Kyle Jacobsen and Ryan Huta.
Cannella then piped his second goal of the game off an assist from Kyle Marino 45 seconds later.
But the Centaurs pulled back within range late in the second period.
In a chaotic foray in front of the Eagle net with multiple shots, Ethan Thorpe rotated in and the puck bounced out to the side where he got his stick on it for his third goal of the season.
Unfortunately for the Centaurs, that was the end of the good news.
Ryan Huta scored a pair of goals, one in the first minute of the third period, to give Eastern Connecticut the 5-2 lead.
Devyn Jordan and Kyle Jacobsen added goals later for the Eagles.
“We came undone a little in the third period. We mishandled the puck that led to their first third-period goal and stuff is going to happen. We can’t just blame a player, mistakes and mis-steps happen and this game is really one of mistakes a lot of the time. They were able to capitalize,” Bisson said.
Freshman Chris Thibault finished up the Centaurs scoring with a goal with 2:40 to play off assists from Matthew Odom and Brendon Hill.
The Centaurs finish up the regular season and the Nutmeg Conference schedule with a game against the Housatonic Cooperative on Monday.
“It’s been a tough stretch for us,” Bisson said. “We have a lot of guys who have to play both JV and varsity because of our numbers. This has been a long week.”
The Centaurs played JV games on Friday and Sunday with the two varsity games wrapped around those.
The JV team may also play Tuesday and Wednesday.
“It will be good in some respects for the pure varsity guys to get right back to it. If we can do our thing like we have most of the season, make the long drive to Housatonic and come back with the win, then we have righted the ship and we’re going into the postseason on a good note. We can feel good about ourselves again,” Bisson said.
Centaurs tie East Haven, down SGWL
Forget about it.
“Leave the game at the rink, leave it in the locker room, don’t go home and think about it,” Woodstock Academy boys ice hockey coach Kevin Bisson said.
That was the message that Bisson left his team with following a 3-3 tie with the East Haven Co-op Saturday night at the Jahn Ice Rink at Pomfret School.
It was a game where Bisson said his team felt like it had lost and the Yellowjackets probably went home with the feeling like they had won after tying ther game with just four seconds left in regulation and then surviving the overtime period.
“It was nice to get the tie versus the loss,” Bisson said. “It was nice to come away with something for a lot of hard work. Our mental toughness was tested early on. In a game where you’re not getting the calls or the breaks that you feel you should, it’s very easy to turtle and go away and I don’t think the guys did that.”
The Centaurs took the 1-0 lead when freshman Kyle Brennan scored the first of his two goals,
“Kyle came up big for us,” Bisson said.
Brennan scored his first on a tip re-direct, finishing a play in front of the net.
Brennan added a power-play goal in the third period.
Bisson credited the five guys on the ice for making that goal happen which tied the game at 2 in the third period.
Austen LeDonne put the Centaurs up 3-2 when a teammate took a hit to leave the puck for the junior.
“It was on his stick, off his stick, no stick-handling, right to slot and he ripped it right past the goalie to give us the lead. It was a major momentum swing with about a minute and a half left,” Bisson said.
Unfortunately, the Centaurs were whistled for a penalty with about 40 seconds left.
The Centaurs (12-4-1) cleared the defensive zone on the ensuing face off, but the officials called icing not realizing the Centaurs were shorthanded.
When the mistake was finally noted, the decision was to have a faceoff at center ice. The problem was the clock was stopped the whole time.
East Haven made use of those valuable seconds when it knotted the game with four seconds left in regulation.
The Centaurs dominated the eight-minute overtime.
The Yellowjackets had only two moments when they skated the puck out of their own end, relying instead on sending the puck the length of the ice where it was quickly brought back due to icing calls.
The Centaurs, however, couldn’t break through.
“It was chance, chance, chance and I can’t be upset with our guys when we have that level of zone time and pressure. You know that they are doing the right things, but you know what, sometimes you run into that goalie who can make those amazingly tough saves,” Bisson said.
The Centaurs were coming off a pretty interesting contest from the Monday before.
It was not the best game of the year for the Centaurs.
But a win is a win.
The Centaurs battled for a 7-4 victory over the Suffield-Granby-Windsor Locks cooperative team on Feb. 4.
“I don’t know what it is about that team,” Bisson said. “The last time we played them (a 7-6 win at the Enfield Twin Rinks) was our worst game of the year and I think, honestly, this was our second worst.”
The game was played at a high pitch.
And for a team coming off their best effort of the season just two days before – a 7-3 win over Burrillville, R.I. - it didn’t take much to light the spark.
Sometimes that’s good, but in some cases, it can be costly.
“A lot of times, we were going to go on the power play and then, we would take a retaliation penalty and it was back to even strength. It made my head hurt,” Bisson said.
The Centaurs were dominant early against the Wildcats.
Doug Newton scored just 1 minute, 21 seconds into the game off an assist from Connor Starr. The Centaurs then went up 2-0 with a short-handed goal by Matthew Odom off the first of three assists from LeDonne.
The Centaurs successfully fought off a 5-3 two-man advantage for the Wildcats in the period and limited them to just two shots.
“I think we got lulled into complacency,” Bisson said. “We limited them to just two shots and everybody thought, ‘All right, cake walk. Point night. Here we go and that’s just not the case. That’s a recipe for disaster.”
Bisson was not happy with the second period at all.
The Centaurs put three goals in the net, but Suffield answered with two.
“We started to lose momentum in the second period,” LeDonne said. “To hop from the (Burrillville) game, right into this, we had a little bit of an off-game.”
The one bright spot of the second period was the play of freshman Chris Thibault.
He scored his first career high school goal with 8:39 left in the period.
“He’s been looking for that for a while and he deserves it. He has been playing the right way for a long time, doing some good stuff and he was rewarded there. It was an easy tap-in for him. He came to the bench and was saying that his heart was beating out of his chest. He was pumped for it,” Bisson said.
LeDonne and Newton also scored for the Centaurs in the second period.
Suffield made it close when it scored 3 ½ minutes into the third period to once again reduce the deficit to two, 5-3.
But LeDonne notched what proved to be the game-winner when he put home his eighth goal of the season.
Bisson said he, being a first-year head coach, didn’t know anyone coming in the door which means everyone had a clean slate.
LeDonne has taken advantage of the fresh start.
“It wasn’t until five games into the season that I was told that Austen spent a lot of time on the bench last year, watching. I’m shocked, truthfully. He’s a strong player, a talented player. He’s one of the fastest guys on the ice. He can win a race to the puck all the time, turn the defenseman, and he’s a hard-nosed player who is willing to pay the price going hard to the net,” Bisson said.
Thibault didn’t have to wait long for his second career goal.
It came with 8:18 left and gave the Centaurs the cushion they needed.
“At this point in the year, you will take (wins) when you can get them,” Bisson said. “Obviously, I’m not happy with certain aspects what get us these wins like (Monday), but when you look at the big picture, and what you’re playing toward, to keep a winning streak going is nice. Winning is contagious, different from last year when losing was contagious. It took hold of the guys. We’ve really bred a winning mentality into these boys this year.”
The Centaurs now get a little time off.
Their next game is 6:30 p.m. Saturday night at home against the Eastern Connecticut Eagles followed by a game on the road at the Housatonic Co-Op at 1:30 p.m. on President’s Day.
They will then have another week-long break before the Nutmeg Conference playoffs.
“The schedule is very, sort of, front-loaded,” Bisson said. “It’s a little more of a break but then all of a sudden when you hit the conference semifinals and finals and state tournament, it becomes a little more on top of each other.”