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Hockey Team Shaking Off The Rust And Showing Potential



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DANBURY — Although the Newtown-New Fairfield high school hockey team’s season-opening game ended in a 2-0 setback to the Bethel-Brookfield-Danbury team at Danbury Ice Arena on February 10, there were plenty of positive signs for Coach Paul Esposito and company.

“We had better energy in the second period,” said Esposito, adding that as the game wore on, his players seemed to gain momentum.

In the third period, the Nighthawks hit a post on a good-looking power play, then — even after the man advantage ended — continued to keep the pressure on the Icecats such that it looked as if the player up situation was still in play.

“They were very aggressive on the forecheck,” Esposito said of his players. “We were dominating their zone for a while.”

Esposito said some of the players returned to the ice for the game after about two weeks of quarantine for possible exposure to a person with coronavirus. Add to that loss of ice time the fact this was the first game of the newly formed co-op with New Fairfield, and the Newtown-led squad was up against it and shaking off the rust amid some game pressure.

“We were making adjustments on the fly,” Esposito said of the coaching staff mixing and matching players to create lines as the delayed and shortened preseason gave way to this coronavirus-shortened regular slate.

Mask breaks gave the Nighthawks a chance to not only catch their breath but also to double shift; for example, if a top line is in the midst of a shift during the break, it allows the coaching staff to leave the players on the ice for an extended block of ice time before the next line change.

“Strategy-wise, it was pretty interesting,” Esposito said.

Phil Makris and Jim Celentano, Newtown’s top scorers and All State representatives from a year ago, created chances in the offensive zone. New Fairfield representatives Ashton Albert and Meghan DeBellis were among the team newcomers to log solid ice time and help the Nighthawks throughout the night, Newtown’s coach said. Goaltender Markus Paltauf was strong between the pipes.

“There’s a lot of potential here,” said Esposito, whose team fell 3-1 to Milford’s co-op team two nights later, then tied New Milford 2-2 on February 17 (read more about the tie in the February 26 print edition of The Bee).

Jim Celentano looks to move the puck in front of net during Newtown’s 2-0 loss to BBD on February 10. —Bee Photos, Hutchison
Phil Makris leads a rush out of the defensive zone.
Cam Gouveia looks to get around the defense.
Eli Kirby gets set to put a shot on goal.—Bee Photos, Hutchison
Eddie Faircloth skates through the neutral zone.
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