WEST HARTFORD – Last season’s hiatus in the West Hartford rivalry on ice didn’t diminish the intensity of this season’s Hall-Southington and Conard matchup at Veterans Memorial Rink.
After 45 minutes of regulation and eight minutes of extra hockey, the rivals ended this season’s affair in a 1-1 draw. Hall-Southington’s goal was scored by Andrew Mitchell, Conard’s by Paul Wilson.
“We told the guys, ‘You guys have to keep your emotions in check when it comes to this game,’” said Hall-Southington coach Brian Cannon. “The crowd is going to be a factor, but you don’t want them to factor into stupid penalties
“You have to be willing to accept things that don’t go your way,” said Cannon. “The kids got it back under control.”
In the first period, both teams were “feeling each other out” as Cannon put it. Both teams were tentative. Eventually, both teams became aggressive and story lines began to form.
“We didn’t do anything different in preparation for this one,” said Cannon. “Believe it or not, we didn’t treat it any differently as any other game. We came in as the underdog and played.”
Once the hitting began, the referees let small things go. An arguable late hit here, maybe a boarding there, but they did the best they could to keep the game in check.
“I didn’t like a few of the non-calls, but they were trying to let us play,” said Cannon. “They have to walk a fine line of letting the game form and keeping it under control. I think the referees did a good job.”
A late hit on Jake Albert late in the first period took the Warrior-Knights’ best back-checker out of the play, giving Wilson a break towards the net. Wilson beat Zach Monti on the goal.
Monti started the game and made 15 saves on 16 shots. Harry Freda came in with a little under 10 minutes remaining in the second period and shut the door for the third period and overtime.
Conard’s Shea Henderson saw more action than the two combined. Henderson made 36 saves on 37 shots in the game.
The second period was back and forth just like the first. A bulk of Hall-Southington’s possession time was controlled and created opportunities, but the Warrior-Knights couldn’t figure out Henderson or the Conard defense.
A power play at 2:31 remaining in the period showed that ability by the Warrior-Knights to possess the puck, but nothing came from it.
In the third period, the teams began to get carried away and penalty minutes were issued. Conard racked up 11 minutes in penalties in the period. Hall-Southington totaled 16.
All of these penalties led up to the scariest scene of the day. A high hit on Hall-Southington’s Drew Booth drew blood. Booth was rushed off the ice to seal up the wounds long enough to get him to a hospital. Booth’s blood also caused a break in the action so it could be cleaned off the ice.
“He probably ended up with a broken nose and a few stitches,” said Cannon. “He’s definitely hurt. We’ll see the damage report once he leaves the hospital.”
The loss of Hall-Southington’s No. 1 defenseman left a hole in the lineup. The Warrior-Knights, however, leaned on Booth for inspiration.
Mitchell’s game-tying goal came with 2:31 left in regulation. Mitchell skated over to the Hall-Southington contingency in the stands with a hand in the air after he scored.
The offense ended there. The Warrior-Knights had received a major penalty from the hit on Booth and carried it into overtime, but they couldn’t capitalize. Offensive leaders like Mike DiPietro and Albert had opportunities. Henderson kept the pucks out for Conard.
With the tie, Hall-Southington becomes 11-6-2 and Conard 10-8-1. The Warrior-Knights wrap up the regular season Monday night against Sheehan at Veterans Memorial. Puck drop is 7:50 p.m.