MILFORD – No matter how strongly a team starts, it sometimes comes down to the effort at the end of a game to differentiate a win from a loss. Newtown High School’s hockey team made it a point to finish what it started, pulling away for a 5-2 win over Sheehan of Wallingford, in its conference tournament semifinals at Milford Ice Pavilion on March 5.
The top seed in the Southern Connecticut/ South-West Conference Division III playoffs, Newtown seized a 2-0 lead before No. 4 Sheehan scored to make it a 2-1 game in the second period. The Nighthawks answered with a goal in the final minute of the middle stanza and added two more third-period tallies to build a commanding 5-1 lead.
“We were really happy with the third period. We wanted to come out and finish the job,” said Newtown Coach Paul Esposito, whose team will now look to complete the bigger “job” – winning the conference title.
Newtown advances to take on the winner of the other semifinal contest between No. 2 New Fairfield-Immaculate of Danbury and No. 3 Masuk of Monroe. The title game will be held at 8 pm on Friday, March 7, at West Haven’s Bennett Rink.
“We expect a very tough game. They’re both quality teams,” said Esposito, whose group edged Masuk 3-2 and tied New Fairfield-Immaculate in a scoreless contest during the regular campaign.
In the win over Sheehan, Jon Lovorn – Newtown’s scoring leader during the regular season – picked up where he left off. Lovorn scored the first two goals, assisted the third, and added another in that put-away third period to complete his hat-trick performance.
Lovorn’s second tally of the night, which came with 1:01 remaining on a power play, with 4:57 to go in the second, staked the Hawks to a 2-0 lead. Moments later, Newtown was penalized and Sheehan also hit the back of the net with 1:01 to go on its power play. It was 2-1 Newtown with 3:21 left in the period.
Sheehan had another power play and a golden opportunity to deadlock the score, but the Nighthawks killed it off with relative ease.
Lovorn set up Dan Harrison to make it a 3-1 game with only 35 seconds remaining in the second. Lovorn used his speed to get deep into the offensive zone and sent a perfect feed in front where Harrison – in position – gathered the pass and reclaimed Newtown’s two-goal edge.
“He’s a phenomenal skater. He’s got the moves; he’s got that third gear and he can go by guys,” Esposito said of Lovorn.
Connor Hanley added to the lead in the third when he banged home a rebound of his initial shot after taking a centering pass from Brian Gregory. Lovorn capped Newtown’s offensive show with a high, hard shot from the high slot, set up by Hanley.
Harrison and Cooper McLean each had a pair of assists for Newtown. Goaltender Patrick McLoughlin made 21 saves as Newtown outshot Sheehan 31-23.
“We’re looking forward to Friday,” Lovorn said. “We’re going to be ready to play.”