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Newtown-New Fairfield Hockey Program Competes On The Ice



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The Newtown-New Fairfield (NNF) co-op hockey team took on the Joel Barlow-Weston-Abbott Tech (JBWA) co-op at Danbury Ice Arena on Valentines Day and what appeared to be another solid effort that would end with a W turned into a disappointing finish for the Nighthawks who fell 5-2.

The Hawks controlled the flow of the game for the better part of two-plus periods. Getting on the board in the first period was Ashton Albert on a laser shot that he stepped into at the top of the circle off a feed from Jack Albano with Jack Meade picking up the secondary assist. The second period saw Blake Ballard add to that lead taking a feed from low to high from Luca Moura and blasting one high into the net. The goal came on the power play. Sebastian Cillia picked up the secondary assist on the play. Goalie Garrett McCollam made key saves, including one on a breakaway.

The third period saw more of the same in the first five minutes with JBWA suddenly gaining some confidence and the Hawks losing momentum. In a game that was important to the Hawks for seeding in the Division III State Tournament it was more important to the Falcons as they looked to advance and qualify for the tournament. For added incentive this game represented the annual Wounded Warrior fundraiser contest and bragging rights for the winning squad.

JBWA got on the board with around nine minutes remaining as the Hawks played poorly off a rush into their own end collapsing into one side of the ice down low and leaving the trailing Falcon player wide open to zip one up high blocker side on McCollam to cut the lead in half. The suddenly energized JBWA side was like a freight train at high speed as the Falcons quickly got the equalizer with the gritty work on the corner boards and a tap-in from the goal mouth as the Hawk defender lost containment of the JBWA forward and allowed his stick to get free.

The game remained tied 2-2 as NNF gained back a little composure but then made a mistake even larger in the final 2:30 of the game. A roughing call while playing for a loose puck was assessed to the Hawks and compounded with a delay of game call as a Hawk player shot the puck down the ice in frustration. The ensuing 5-on-3 and 5-on-4 power play resulted in a tip-in goal off a heavy point shot and a high riser utilizing a screen as the Hawk defender didn’t gap up on the onrushing player.

Suddenly what was a probable win became a thumping loss. JBWA added an empty net goal in the final seconds for the final score.

Several players battled hard in the game, including Ryan Anderson, Ballard, Attila Balla and Cilia. McCollam registered 26 saves on 30 shots in the contest as the Hawks moved to 12-6 overall and remained in the top five in the state’s D-III standings.

The last away game of the regular season was played in Norwalk against the Norwalk-McMahon co-op on February 17. The team having qualified for both the league and state playoffs was looking to add to its point total and retain a top five spot. Unfortunately for the Hawks, a slow start let another two points slip thru their mitts in a 6-2 defeat as the squad looks to round into postseason form with just one game to go.

NorMac jumped out in front picking up a loose puck in front off a zone entry and feed to the middle and chipped one past senior goalie Max Browne. Shortly thereafter NorMac got another by Browne coming in on an odd man rush and catching net just inside the far post. NorMac employed a strategy of hanging a player in the neutral zone throughout the evening frustrating the Hawks with having to keep a player deep to prevent clean breakaways thus thwarting the offensive effort.

The Hawks did begin to mount a comeback when Anderson and Quinn Harris pounded the net after an initial shot from Ballard. It was Harris credited with the goal off a rebound to cut the deficit to one. Captain Alex Schmidt pulled the team even getting a rebound of his own after some hard work was rewarded from Jared Ku along with Albano. The period ended tied at two but with the absence of any real spark being seen from the Hawks, coaches said.

NorMac took a two-goal lead in the second. The third goal came from in close and the fourth came from the goal line out of the corner. Looking to shake things up in the final period Coach Paul Esposito juggled lines and combinations and changed goaltenders for change’s sake hoping it would spark the group, although Browne was left in tough situations due to NNF’s play, coaches said. The trick seemed to work for a bit with more inspired played and offensive pressure but the Hawks couldn’t find the shots needed to get one by the NorMac goalie. As the period wore on and time was running low the Hawks found themselves chasing and getting called for a slash on a stick check. The ensuing power play led to a goal on a third chance. The final goal against also came on the power play against, this time with the Hawks down two men.

Both Browne especially and McCollam stood tall in the pipes despite being under siege at times during the evening. Browne recorded 15 saves on 19 shots and McCollam six stops on eight shots but had plenty of excitement in front of the crease throughout.

The last regular season game will be played at home at the Danbury Ice Arena on Saturday, February 24 at 3 pm against a strong D-II opponent in Amity of Woodbridge.

The JV squad took on both Ridgefield and New Milford in action this past week and split the contests. On February 12 the squad played Ridgefield looking to avenge an early season 7-4 loss but fell by a 7-0 score. The Ridgefield group fields an unusually large squad of roughly 23 JV players whereas the Hawks generally play with 12 and it showed in this contest. The Hawks managed to stay competitive until about the halfway point when down by one Ridgefield scored three quick ones to go up 4-0 then coasted to the easy victory. If there was a positive to take out of this game, it was the play of Carter Bisson in net who stopped 33 of the 40 shots on goal coming up big in the effort department.

On February 15 the JV group returned to the ice to take on New Milford for the first time this season in what turned out to be an even matchup. The two teams battled it out and remained tied at 3-3 at the conclusion of regulation. The game was sent to an agreed upon five-minute sudden death overtime period and it was the Hawks who prevailed 4-3 marking the second time this season the team has prevailed in the extra session. The first period began with some terrific back and forth play before New Milford cracked opened the door beating sophomore goaltender Bisson from in tight after an in-zone turnover by the young Hawks.

In the second period it was the NNF squad getting even when Colby Cheneski picked off an errant clear by New Milford and walked in from the faceoff circle picking a corner to knot the game at one. Balla then scored from the angle putting the boys up for the first time in the contest as he rang one just inside the post a few minutes later. The play was made after a nice keep at the blueline by Antonio DiBiase who picked up the assist. The period ended with NNF up by one and winning the shots on goal battle 20-17 as well.

The third period saw both teams turn up the heat with the Green Wave pulling even on a speed rush up the wall and a great individual effort deking Bisson for the tie. Albano quickly restored the one goal cushion picking up a puck in the defensive end and going coast to coast blasting one from just inside the blueline as he entered the zone and having the shot ramp up and over the New Milford goalie. New Milford continued to press and again got the game to even off what NNF coaches said was a non-call as Cheneski was tripped up inside the zone leading to a turnover that allowed a New Milford forward to score a tap-in to knot the game at 3-3.

In overtime the Hawks were buzzing the New Milford net with several quality chances only to be stymied by some solid goaltending and a little bit of luck. That luck finally ended when Cheneski got a hold of one from the point placing a perfect shot off the goaltender’s far pad allowing for Jack Meade to play the rebound and easily deposit the biscuit into the basket for the victory. The Hawks outshot New Milford 39–28. Bisson made a few dandy saves throughout and ended the day with 25 stops. The JV Hawks stand at 2-3-3 with two contests remaining.

Attila Balla competes for the Newtown-New Fairfield squad. —Wendi McCabe photos
Blake Ballard makes a move to find some open ice during game action.
Goaltender Garrett McCollam makes a glove save as he managed to follow the puck through traffic.
Ashton Albert takes a look back for the puck as he skates into position.
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