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Despite Social Distancing, Cooperative Effort Between Newtown And New Fairfield Made For Special Season



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In a year during which social distancing and coronvirus concerns kept some families apart and prevented some teams from finishing what they started, rivals from Newtown and New Fairfield high schools joined forces on the ice for what turned out to be a special hockey season — one that not only got completed, but extended to the final day of the postseason.

The single team effort stretched all the way to the Southern Connecticut Conference/South-West Conference title game, with contributors from both schools making it possible. After beating the Joel Barlow-led co-op in the quarterfinals, the Newtown-led squad defeated Milford’s co-op team in the tournament semis, then fell to the Brookfield-Bethel-Danbury team in the championship game (see related story).

New Fairfield had teamed with Immaculate of Danbury in past seasons, but Immaculate had a full squad this winter so the Nighthawks adopted seven Rebels: Ronan McAllister, Daniel Pankiv, Jack Benzing, Ashton Albert, Gavin Mone, Chris Liguori, and Meghan DeBellis.

“I think the kids enjoy it. There are a lot of great kids from both schools,” Esposito said earlier in the winter, as the squad began to develop its chemistry.

These are not all foes turned friends. Some of the players from different schools have skated together in youth hockey. Newtown’s James Celentano played travel hockey with McAllister, and said some of his good friends came from New Fairfield and other towns through their hockey connection. Celentano, a junior and one of the teams’ top goal scorers, said it was fun learning from the seniors from both schools.

“It’s a lot of fun. Everybody gets along and has great chemistry,” said Benzing, one of those seniors.

“It’s been fun getting to know all the New Fairfield guys, making new friends. I love to meet new people,” said Newtown’s Phil Makris, the team’s top scorer, who logged his 100th career point during the campaign.

Newtown High’s Phil Makris skates behind the net as teammate and New Fairfield representative Ronan McAllister (No. 14) gets into position during game action this winter. —Bee Photos, Hutchison
New Fairfield’s Jack Benzing, left, takes a faceoff for the Newtown-New Fairfield co-op team this season.
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