WEST HARTFORD — Bryant Caron scored twice to power No. 4 Conard to a 2-1 CIAC Division II first-round win over No. 13 Hall-Southington in a matinee start at Veterans Memorial Skating Rink on Tuesday afternoon.
Conard goalie Shea Henderson made 26 saves and kept the Warrior-Knights at bay after an early goal as the Chieftains (12-9-1) move on to the quarterfinals on Friday.
“Tentative first period, everyone testing the water and no one getting out of line,” Hall-Southington coach Brian Cannon said. “I loved it when we scored first. I was hoping that was going to get us rolling, but we gave it right back not long after. I thought Conard was a little faster team than us and they covered the ice a little better than us.”
Hall-Southington (12-9-2) took a 1-0 lead 4:54 into the game when Mike DiPietro guided home a loose puck in the crease. Robert Allan and Miles Aronow were credited with assists.
That lead was short-lived. Only 1:24 later, Caron provided the equalizer off an assist from Liam Lacroix.
Conard jumped ahead 2-1 with 8:06 left in the second. Caron put in a rebound of an initial shot by Lacroix. Paul Wilson was also credited with an assist.
Lacroix broke away from the Hall-Southington defense and drew a delayed penalty on the play. The Chieftains maintained possession and Caron put the home team on top for good.
Hall-Southington’s best look at Henderson in the second period was with two minutes to go. Jacob Albert had a lane to the goal, but was stopped by Henderson. Albert then collected the rebound, but Henderson was up to the task again with another save.
Aronow and Albert had shots for the Warrior-Knights on the one power play of the game. (A Conard cross-check with 1:02 left in the second period was the only penalty called all afternoon.)
Midway through the third period, Henderson grabbed a loose puck out of the air to snuff a potential Hall-Southington scoring chance.
Later, with 6:30 to play, DiPietro broke free and tried to get around a charging Henderson, but couldn’t convert as the two players collided. Aronow was able to get the rebound. His attempt just skimmed in front of the post.
That would prove to be the closest the visitors would get.
“It dribbled across the line,” Cannon said. “It went from six inches out to two inches out when it got to the post. All it needed was a touch, but we couldn’t get anything on it.”
Liam Stone took a shot for Hall-Southington with 3:30 to go that was gloved by Henderson.
Cannon called a timeout with 43 seconds remaning and goalie Zach Monti of Southington left the net for an extra skater, but the Warrior-Knights couldn’t generate a goal.
The loss marks the end of the careers of Hall-Southington’s Graham Kennedy, Booth, Aronow, Richard Mitchell IV, William Carpenter, Jacob Mohr, Anthony Abbatiello, Albert, Brendan Moore, Harrison Freda and Monti.
“Tough game,” said Monti, who had 30 saves. “I felt good playing. I was on top of my game and I knew it was a close game and I had to stick with it. It’s a big rivarly and that’s what happens with close games like that. It’s just crazy.”
Monti said the team was motivated by the appearance of injured senior captain Drew Booth. The Warrior-Knights captain spoke with the team in the locker room during the second intermission.
“He came in and talked to us and I was like, ‘We have to win this game now,’” Monti said. “He’s here and he’s supporting us, so that was big. He said a couple things and ended with, ‘Go kill it out there and don’t let the season end yet.’ But, unfortunatly, we couldn’t do it.
It’s been an very emotional few weeks,” Monti added. “We’ve had a lot of talks with the coaches and talks with parents and going through our game being rescheduled. We started to focus on hockey, but it was pretty hard. You can see it in the locker room. Everyone was really emotional about it.”
Booth went down with a devastating injury in Hall-Southington's 1-1 tie with Conard on Feb. 24.The senior captain underwent surgery after suffering two broken eye sockets and a broken nose.
Booth was recognized during the pregame announcements and made it to the rink during the game and was on the ice for the postgame handshakes.
“I didn’t expect to see him today,” Cannon said. “He’s still has a lot of sensitivity to sound and light and everything else. I’m glad he got here and I hope he doesn’t feel too bad when he gets out of here. He’s running on emotion. It was really nice to see him.”
Conard junior Brendan Battiston, who was given a five-minute major on the play in which Booth was hurt, did not play Tuesday.
“He decided to take himself out of the game,” Conard coach Chris Tornaquindici said. “He thought he would give our team a better chance to win without him in light of the situation that has happened. He made a man’s decision as a young man and he really should be commended for it. He wrote a letter to the town. He wrote a letter to the folks on the other side. He really, really stepped up. He took the ultimate high road along with everyone else and I’m extremely proud of him.”
Cannon said he appreciated Battiston’s decision.
“It was a hugely gracious gesture on the part of Brendan Battiston to basically recuse himself from the game,” Cannon said. “That’s a boy making a man’s decision. It was very hard for him, I’m sure. That kid is a ball of passion and wants to be out there playing and he took himself out, and that was very gracious.”