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Week 9: Centaurs win close one for a change

The Woodstock Academy boys hockey team hadn’t played a game decided by less than five goals since Jan. 14.

So was it good for the Centaurs to have to dig in and battle through a 3-1 win over Moses Brown from Providence, R.I. on Wednesday?

“Not for me. I like winning 9-0. I feel great after those games,” Woodstock Academy coach Mark Smolak said with a smile. “We did need a test, though. We know when we start playing in States and the Nutmeg Conference tournaments, teams are going to be giving us everything. If we continue on the path of being a 1 or 2 team in (CIAC Division II), we know that every team will be an underdog and every team will give us everything that we can handle. From here on out, we have to be mentally prepared for that and we need to anticipate that.”

There was a reason why the Quakers gave it everything they had at the Jahn Ice Rink at Pomfret School.

State pride.

“They have seen us pick off everyone in (the Rhode Island Interscholastic League), I think they had a little extra motivation to succeed where the teams they have played against have failed,” Smolak said.

Moses Brown’s play certainly belied their 5-11-3 record as they stopped the Centaurs from getting really into their flow.

“They were fast and their forecheck was pretty good. They were able to hem us in the zone and it was hard to break out of,” Woodstock Academy sophomore Maxx Corradi said.

The Centaurs, who are now 13-1 on the season, did get a goal early.

Troy Daviau got help from Andrew Newton and Jacob Jurnovoy and put the puck past Quaker’s starting goalie Camden Lussier just 2 minutes, 51 seconds into the first period.

But the goals did not come fast and furious.

That 1-0 score stayed put until just 3:16 was left in the second period.

That’s when Corradi put the Centaurs up, 2-0.

“Donnie (Sousa) was able to keep it in and Noah (Sampson) was able to slide it to me on the back door. I one-touched it and put it on the back bar,” Corradi said.

The Quakers answered.

Just a little over two minutes later, left wing Ethan Garneau countered for Moses Brown to cut the Centaurs lead in half.

That’s where it would remain until the final minute when Corradi sent his 25th goal of the season into an empty net.

“I missed one earlier in the season off the post so it fell good to net this one,” Corradi said.

The first line has been in a bit of a slump so the two goals by Corradi was a welcome sight for Smolak.

“He leads the team in points and has taken his game to another level from last year to this year. Last year, he was more of a shoot-first guy. This year, he is doing a lot in terms of distributing the puck. He finds holes to get his shots off and to see that kind of development is fantastic. His line, as a whole, is fighting it a little bit so to have him work well with other players and be able to contribute is a testament to him,” Smolak said.

The win got the Centaurs closer to the top of Division II.

They now trail North Haven by only two points.

North Haven had lost two in a row prior to a 7-3 win over the Eastern Connecticut Eagles Wednesday.

“We’re at a point now where points are at a premium and if we want to lock down that No. 1 seed, it doesn’t matter what team we’re playing; doesn’t matter where they are ranked or how many wins or losses they have, we have to be ready to play our game,” Smolak said.

It was an emotional game.

Not necessarily because of what happened on the ice but rather because of an event last week that had a profound impact on Woodstock Academy opponent, Housatonic Regional, on Monday at the Jahn Ice Rink at Pomfret School.

The Mountaineers were playing their second game without sophomore Marcus Rogers.

The young player and his grandfather both died last week in a car accident that took place on the way to hockey practice.

Prior to the game, the two teams met at center ice for a moment of silence. The Centaurs had their No. 20 jersey hanging above the bench to honor Rogers and, afterwards, the two teams again came together with some handshakes and hugs to finish off the night.

“That’s something about the hockey community in the state- it doesn’t matter where you are from. We all stick together and are supportive of one another. That was the message to the team: It was an emotional game for them, we’re going to be here for that team, and provide them with the support and anything else they need from us. But once the puck drops, it’s business,” Smolak said.

Business that the Centaurs handily took care of as they downed the Mountaineers 9-1.

The win raised Woodstock Academy’s record to 6-0 in the Nutmeg Conference.

Admittedly, Woodstock Academy changed it up a bit on Monday against the Mountaineers (2-9, 1-4 Nutmeg).

The very productive first line of Sampson, Corradi and Sousa got a few less minutes as the other members of the team got the job done early.

The Centaurs rolled out to a 5-0 first period lead thanks to a pair of goals from Brady O’Brien and one each from Jared Nielsen, Jack Larkin and Sam Desmond, who had his first career varsity goal.

Three of those goals came in the final minute of that first period.

“It was just a lot of moving the puck, everyone was talking and playing like a team. That’s what we need,” Nielsen, who finished with two goals and three assists, said. “It was pretty special to get three goals in the last minute. We were working hard out there and it paid off.”

Corradi did get a goal in the second period, the lone goal in that 15 minutes, before Nielsen, Brady Lecuyer and Jayden Fuller finished things off with goals in the third.

“It was a night where our top line was quiet for the most part, outside of Corradi’s short-handed goal, so to have our depth really stand out at a level that we knew they were capable of is great. It’s going to be great for their confidence moving forward. It’s going to allow us as a coaching staff to give them more ice time and trust them when the game gets tight,” Smolak said.

The Centaurs were scheduled to play East Haven on Saturday but an illness forced a postponement of the contest until Saturday, Feb. 25 at 7:15 p.m.