NORTHFORD — The Cheshire ice hockey team capitalized on Lyman Hall Co-op mistakes for a three-goal first period that sent the Rams on their way to a 5-1 SCC/SWC crossover victory Tuesday afternoon at the Northford Ice Pavilion.
The Division II Rams improved to 2-0 on the season. The Division III Trojans fell to 0-2.
“When teams work harder than you, they get the breaks,” said Lyman Hall/Haddam-Killingworth/Coginchaug head coach Rich Minnix. “That’s what usually happens. You don’t work hard; you don’t get the bounces.”
The bounces were in favor of the Cheshire Rams, who were led by a two-goal performance from James Illnicki and the first win of the season for senior goalie Anthony Vignola.
“I’m so grateful to have a team like this behind me,” said Vignola. “Lot of young talent this year and we are playing well so far.”
Vignola is in a position battle with sophomore Nick Maringola, who won the team’s opening game 6-3 over Conard. With Tuesday’s win, Vignola will not let the battle be put to rest.
“He competes every day in practice. Every game he competes,” Cheshire head coach Anthony Giusto said of Vignola. “I say it all the time. He may not look the prettiest out there, but he’s effective.”
Vignola is aware of the terms that Giusto follows when choosing his starting lineup and plans on continuing his work.
“Coach has told us at the beginning of the season, as he has told every other player, it is a constant fight every single week,” said Vignola. “Every single week it will be a different situation and I plan to keep working hard and making sure I’m still in that net.”
As for the offense, Illnicki’s two-goal performance started on a shot that managed to find an unintended way past Trojans goalie Andrew Sacco.
“Wasn’t really going for a goal, just getting it on net and testing out the goalie early,” said Illnicki. “It just worked out.”
That goal put the Rams up 2-0. Evan Veivia was credited with the first Cheshire goal just 16 seconds into the battle. The assist was given to Jason McKinley, who finished the night with two points.
The third Cheshire goal came six minutes later on a bouncing puck in the goal mouth that Sacco couldn’t handle. McKinley slapped it home with credit for the assist going to freshman Niklas Vasiljevs.
The goal was caused by careless passing by the Trojans on a breakout. They turned the puck over in their own zone and in perfect position for the Rams to score.
“Feels like the first two games we’re getting those breaks,” said Giusto. “Eventually, it’s going to turn around, so you have to enjoy it while you have those.”
The Co-op’s play began to shift. A more confident and capable team began shining through and maybe all the guys needed was to get their legs warm.
“They’re a good team; we knew they were going to be a good team,” said Giusto. “I thought they definitely outplayed us this game. I thought we benefited from three early breaks.”
Kyle Roberts scored the lone Trojans’ goal on the power play. Roberts took a nice slap shot from the top of the umbrella setup the Trojans like to run with the man advantage. The assists were credited to T.J. Isleib and Aiden Weir, two newcomers.
The second period was less action packed, with both teams taking turns attacking and not much to show for it. A lot of neutral zone play took up a main portion of the period, with the Trojans edging the Rams a tad in possession time.
“That’s a good team over there and I think for about 90 percent of that game they outplayed us,” said Giusto. “The score was not indicative of how that game went.”
The Rams’ fourth and fifth goals had to wait until the third period.
Illnicki’s second came almost nine minutes into the period on a rebound opportunity that Sacco just could not recover from. Ben O’Connor and Kyle Letourneau were given the assists.
The final goal came off a fluttering shot from Lorenzo Ocone-Krause that squeaked through Sacco’s pads and slid to the back of the net.
Cheshire next faces off against Glastonbury this Saturday. The same day, the Lyman Hall Co-op travels to Danbury to take on Joel Barlow.
“Jumping out to a quick start is what we’ve been doing the last two games and we hope to do the same thing,” said Giusto. “We haven’t played from behind yet and I don’t know what type of team we are going to be when [we] get down.”