WALLINGFORD — Last Friday night, when the Lyman Hall-Haddam Killingworth-Coginchaug hockey team traveled all the way up Salisbury to face off with Housatonic-Northwestern, the Trojans were hit with another road block in a season in which they were expected to be a heavy favorite in Division III.
Senior captain and defenseman Chris Blanchard was sidelined with a broken wrist that took him out of the game that night and several games following, including Saturday’s 2-1 overtime loss to rival Shehean.
“It’s really tough. I want to be out there,” Blanchard said Wednesday night as the Trojans fell to Branford 7-1 in his absence. “You want the best for your team, as a captain, and not being able to be out there with them is tough.”
Blanchard has seven points on the season and leads the team on the back end. Last season, Blanchard was named to the All-State and All-Record Journal teams in honor of his efforts as a junior. Now, as a senior, Blanchard could possibly miss the remainder of the season.
Along with Blanchard, the Trojans have been missing Hunter Boileau. Last year’s SCC/SWC Division III Player of the Year has yet to play this season. Boileau is expected to return for limited action tonight against Shepaug-Litchfield at The Gunnery.
“You’ve got two All-State players on your roster, one All-SCC Division III Player of the Year who hasn’t touched the ice yet this year, and now losing Chris Blanchard it’s a tough spot to fill,” said Trojans head coach Rich Minnix.
Minnix has said “it is yet to be determined” if a system change will be put in place moving forward to adjust to the loss of Blanchard. A different style of play could enable the Trojans to adapt to the different talents they currently have and do not have at their disposal.
Boileau has been a tough spot to fill. Now, with Blanchard out, the Trojans are being stretched thin. That is not to say they do not have the talent to still make it work.
Forward Josh Martinez has been an overlooked asset for the Trojans this season. A player with good speed and a strong awareness of the ice, Martinez has a knack of being in the right place at the right time. Currently sitting with just two points on the stat line, Martinez isn’t a conventional point scorer, but with the return of Boileau to the lineup that could possibly change in the near future.
Another player overlooked at times is Connor Satton. Satton carries just six points on his stat line, but has stepped up big as of late, most noticeably with a two-goal performace in a 6-3 win over Milford on Jan. 17. Minnix said he looks to Satton to be a difference maker with his speed.
“We are obviously looking at Markus Trahan [in] a leadership role, who is already stepped up on the back end,” said Minnix when asked about others he is looking to step up in the lineup. “We’ll also be looking to guys like Jared Sullivan now. He’s been quiet at times, just doing his job back there, but now we are looking for him to step into a leadership role as well.”
Trahan has stepped up in a big way for the Trojans. With Blanchard in the lineup earlier in the season, Trahan stayed defensive minded and in his comfort zone. Now, he seems like a peacock showing off its feathers for the first time. Along with taking over the No. 1 spot on defense, he is showing his skating and hands while streaking down the ice and carrying the puck into the zone more often than before, with more shots coming off his stick.
As for Sullivan, he is expected to become a more confident defender. The junior shows streaks of smart and strong play, but does get lost in the shuffle at times. If he and other defenders can rise to the occasion and play their best hockey with Blanchard missing, maybe the defense will not suffer.
The 7-1 defeat to Branford on Wednesday was tough to watch for Blanchard, though. He was itching to get out on the ice. Instead, he was itching at the cast wrapped around his neck to support his broken wrist.
“You have to tell them to keep their heads up and that they are playing great and that it doesn’t matter what the outcome is, we’ll still be right there behind them supporting them,” Blanchard said on keeping his captain’s duties while being out. “Once they get down on themselves, the whole game goes to waste.”
With the injury, Blanchard missed the first Sheehan game of the season and more than likely will also miss the second on Feb. 18 at Wesleyan. It’s a tough pill to swallow for a senior looking to play his last game against his rival.
“It’s a real bummer,” said Blanchard. “Both teams have the upmost respect for every player no matter what the outcome is, so you want to be out there for every shift to get a good outcome.”
Blanchard has his head up, keeping with the “everything happens for a reason” mantra moving forward. The most positive reason is giving a roster spot to a young, up-and-coming Trojan trying to break through on the roster.
Hopefully, the return of Boileau and the rise of other players in the ranks will allow the Trojans to bounce back this season.
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