Week 10: Woodstock Academy atop CIAC Division II point standings going into final week
At the end of a busy three-game week, the Woodstock Academy boys hockey team finds itself atop the point standings in Division II of the Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference.
The Centaurs accomplished that with a trio of wins over the likes of Lyman Hall, North Branford and Glastonbury to improve to 16-1 on the season.
“It feels great, but we still have a lot of work to do,” Woodstock Academy coach Mark Smolak said.
Woodstock Academy only leads North Haven by two points going into the final week of the season. The Centaurs have Nutmeg Conference games against Tri-Town and the Eastern Connecticut Eagles and finish up against a Division II opponent, East Haven.
They have to win those three and may need a little help to maintain the first seed in the division for the state tournament.
“Mathematically, two weeks ago, it looked like (first seed) would be a lock (if the Centaurs won out). Now, the standings have shifted. We have a chance to finish second at the minimum, hopefully, first,” Smolak said.
Several of the wins the Centaurs have came against teams who have now fallen below .400 and that means they would not get the additional bonus points that are allotted for wins against tournament qualified teams.
“(North Haven’s) wins have maintained but it is going against the third-ranked team (on Monday) and also have to play Wethersfield who took (North Haven) out in the championship game last year. They have a couple of really tough games ahead of them,” Smolak said.
It won’t be much easier for the Centaurs.
Tri-Town and Eastern Connecticut both have the additional impetus of playing against a conference foe and a win for Tri-Town (Monday in a game that ended too late for this edition) would certainly bolster its standing in Division III for the state tournament.
“Our approach is that we know we’re in the playoffs, both in the conference and in States. If we lose out, we’re still in States. I expressed to them the importance and the urgency of the teams that are coming at us. If they’re out (Eastern Connecticut has opted out of the CIAC tournament), they will throw everything they have at us because we’re a top team and they want to ruin our opportunity to claim first place. It’s also a last chance for many of those kids to play against a high-powered team,” Smolak said.
A high-powered team that is also coming off three games in four days.
There was some heavy legs and some illness that the Centaurs had to overcome on Saturday against Glastonbury at Trinity College.
Woodstock Academy skated to a scoreless tie with their hosts in the first period and the two teams exchanged goals in the second.
Andrew Newton put in his fifth goal of the season off an assist from Jacob Jurnovoy.
But Glastonbury’s Michael Rodriguez answered with a goal and the two teams went into the locker room for a final time tied.
“We spoke in the locker room that we knew some of them were exhausted, they had played a lot of hockey but they had 15 minutes left and had to dig deep and really just put everything they had left out on the ice,” Smolak said.
It resonated with them as it didn’t take long at all for the Centaurs to forge ahead.
Donnie Sousa scored just 50 seconds into the third period off an assist from Maxx Corradi and just 25 seconds later, on the same shift, it was Sousa who fed Corradi for a second goal, his 29th of the season.
It was how the game ended, 3-1, in favor of the Centaurs.
On Friday, the Centaurs posted a 6-1 victory over North Branford at the Northford Ice Rink.
The win for the Centaurs came courtesy of a four-goal second period against the Thunderbirds (8-7-2), a fellow CIAC Division II team.
“Our forecheck was really going. We stress with our team that if we’re moving our feet and keeping speed on the forecheck, a lot of defenseman, especially younger ones, are not able to handle that physicality,” Smolak said.
Jurnovoy delivered that message early to North Branford with a hard check.
“From that point forward, whenever they saw No. 14 on the ice, they either let him get the puck first or they panicked and threw the puck where there was one of our guys. We really controlled possession and play in that game,” Smolak said.
Sousa scored two goals in the rally, both from assists from Noah Sampson who finished with three assists in total.
Max Larkin, who finished with two goals, also scored in the second period as did Newton.
Corradi (1 assist) added a goal late in the third period.
Earlier in the week, it took a little while to get going but the Centaurs began a three-game week with a 4-1 win at home over Lyman Hall at the Jahn Ice Rink at Pomfret School.
The win came on Military Appreciation Night.
The Centaurs wore their camouflage uniforms, the UConn Air Force ROTC Color Guard was on hand and proceeds from the game went to the Danielson Coffeehouse which raises money for local veterans in need.
In addition to the early fanfare, those on hand were treated to a close game.
The two teams battled through a scoreless first period which Smolak attributed to himself.
“I made a mistake to try and change things up to get kids more ice time. It was clear after the first two shifts that Lyman Hall came to play. They put out a really good effort and I took the responsibility of not being prepared for that. The kids appreciated that, picked me up, and put together the win that we needed,” Smolak said.
Sampson put the Centaurs into the lead with a goal just 44 seconds into the second period off assists from Corradi and Ian Sherman.
That score held through the majority of the second period until Corradi tallied off an assist from Sousa with 1 minute, 46 seconds left in the period.
Unfortunately, the two-goal lead didn't last long as Cam Kaplan answered for Lyman Hall (3-13-1) with a goal 30 seconds later.
The Centaurs finally pulled away in the third period when Sousa scored just 1:01 in and Corradi added his second goal of the game 3 1/2 minutes later.
Woodstock Academy puts the skates on again Monday against Tri-Town for a matinee at noon at the Jahn Ice Rink at Pomfret School. All the play-by-play will be available on both woodstockacademy.org/live and the Woodstock Academy Athletics Facebook page.