ICE HOCKEY: Hall-Southington looks to the next shift and sets sights high

ICE HOCKEY: Hall-Southington looks to the next shift and sets sights high


With a few days to mull over Saturday’s Division III state championship loss at the hands of Woodstock Academy, Hall-Southington hockey coach Brian Cannon sets his eyes on the future and the high expectations his Warrior-Knights have created for themselves.

“We definitely should be back at Ingalls next season,” said Cannon. “Anything can happen on any given night. I don’t think anything less than a semifinal appearance can be considered a success.”

Cannon has the numbers returning to back up his confidence. The Warrior-Knights graduate six seniors from this year’s 12-10-3 squad, but have a large junior class of 10 guys rising into their senior year. In that class, defensive specialist Drew Booth and starting goalie Zach Monti will be looked upon to fill leadership roles.

“Monti, Booth, [Richard] Mitchell and [Miles] Aronow will be the guys that are going to step up big time,” said Cannon. “Also, Jacob and Christian Mohr have a chance to step up.”

Booth and Monti were game-changers on the defensive end this season and their performance at Yale in the final four proved their ability at the highest stage.

Aronow was somewhat of a surprise for the Warrior-Knights. One of the guys Cannon mentioned as most improved this season, Aronow has a ton of speed he can generate almost instantly. Aronow is a heck of a forechecker and interrupts opposing teams’ breakouts, a talent Cannon fully utilized to suppress opposition offenses.

Mitchell was Booth’s defensive partner and he showed flashes of brilliance this season. Mitchell is a big-body defenseman who makes smart decisions and doesn’t stretch himself too thin when it comes to his abilities on the back end. He does what he knows he can do, which plays to his benefit.

Mitchell had tendencies to play a physical game. If he can progress the physical side of his play and become an enforcer of sorts, he could be an exciting guy to watch.

“That will be our nucleus of strength for next season,” said Cannon.

Other returners who will be exciting to watch progress are sophomores Nathan Zmarlicki and Mike DiPietro. Both guys stepped into the lineup and offered serious minutes with good offensive abilities.

“DiPietro came in and was immediately effective,” Cannon said of the first-year sophomore.

DiPietro’s mere appearance on the team this year came as a surprise, Cannon noted. He hopes the success of this season can draw more interest from perspective players.

“We’ll see what happens,” said Cannon. “I’ll see who shows up two weeks before Christmas. We are never certain of who’s coming.”

The season, as a whole, was a roller coaster of sorts for Hall-Southington. The Warrior-Knights could be unpredictable. They could come out and beat undefeated Woodstock, as they did 3-2 on Feb. 6. They could lose to a struggling Enfield-East Granby-Stafford team, as they did 3-1 on Jan. 14.

“This team has never been predictable,” said Cannon. “We were a Jekyll and Hyde team of sorts — or, I like to say, a box of chocolates team. You never know what you’re going to get.”

Cannon does have an idea of what he’ll get from his returners: a first-tier defenseman in Booth, an electric scorer in DiPietro and one of division III’s rising goaltenders in Monti.

In the meantime, a graduating class of six seniors says goodbye to the Warrior-Knights sweaters. Jeremy Fortin, Dusty Kilgore, Jacob Herz, Colby Glidden, Eric Bienstock, and Matthew Carlson leave having led Hall-Southington to its first state final.

“Graduation always hurts,” said Cannon. “It’s the circle of life for high school sports. Now they are off to bigger and better things.”

Fortin is one of the more notable losses for the team. Fortin was a speedy forward who came up big in clutch situations, including an overtime goal against the Newington Co-op in the first round of the state tournament. As a captain, Fortin was a mature presence who more often than not led by example in all three zones.

“He had a very strong season,” said Cannon. “We needed it from him. He was our strongest back-checker and fore-checker.”

Kilgore was one of the team’s few pure goal scorers in the sense that he could get to the slot with the puck, fire a shot and get it past the goalie. He had the potential to change any game when the puck was on his stick. Kilgore had good wheels and was patient when it came to offensive chances.

“Dusty is a talented kid that everybody needs on their team, but not everyone has,” said Cannon.

Herz is another captain leaving the Warrior-Knights. Herz certainly wasn’t the fastest or strongest guy on the ice, but he played a good physical game that the Warrior-Knights needed. On almost every play, Herz found himself near the net looking for a rebound to leak out from the goalie — sometimes getting too close and irritating the other team. Herz tended to rattle defenses, which made him fun to watch.

“He’s a scrappy, strong, role player,” said Cannon. “He was willing to stick his nose where he wasn’t necessarily supposed to be. He wasn’t afraid to muck it up in the slot.”

After the team banquet Wednesday, Cannon will turn his focus forward to next season.

“Next year is an important year,” he said. “Everything is looking pretty good for next year and we have a group of talented young kids.”

Next season is important because of the number of seniors. There will be 11 next year and they will not be easy to replace. There were just two freshmen on this season’s roster.

“Due to circumstances, the freshman did not get a lot of playing time this season,” said Cannon. “It was just a numbers game. If they do good work in the offseason, they will step in and have an immediate effect.”

Next year looms as a “win-now” scenario for the Warrior-Knights. As for a rematch against Woodstock, which is always an exciting game, Cannon does not rule out a meeting between the two, regardless of what division the Centaurs find themselves in next season.

“They appreciate us and we appreciate them,” said Cannon. “I guess you can call what we have with them a rivalry. We have a nice healthy competitive thing with them.”


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