NEWINGTON – The Nutmeg State Games Hockey Tournament held gold medal games on Sunday at Newington Arena and the Mighty Irish and the Dragon Club left victorious.
The Mighty Irish beat the GNH Warriors, 5-3, in the bantam division final while the Dragon Club won a thriller over the Central Capitals of Newington in the midget division, taking the gold, 3-2, in a shootout.
After falling behind 2-0 in the third period, the Capitals scored two goals to force overtime from Cole Schoen and Anthony DeFilio, but couldn’t outlast the Dragon Club in the shootout.
John Derrico, Anthony Malonis and Michael Troiano netted goals for the Dragon Club to take the victory, while Matt Kraus and Colby Quinn secured goals for the Capitals.
Following a scoreless first period, Derrico put the Dragon Club ahead 1-0 with a shorthanded goal in the second frame.
It appeared the Dragon Club were in great position after a Spiro Maniatis goal midway through the third, however the Capitals responded to force extra time.
As the last team to qualify for the final four, the Dragon Club earned a spot in the gold medal game with a convincing 4-0 win over the CT Rink Rats earlier in the day.
The Capitals finished first in their division with a 3-0 record in round-robin play, before beating the Tomahawks 6-1 to advance to the championship game.
In the bantam division, Connor Driscoll led the Mighty Irish to glory with a two-point afternoon. Driscoll started the scoring with a snipe shot in the first period, then setup Joshua Rodrigue with a nice seam pass through the slot in the third to make it 4-2.
“He had a really good game, he was really solid in all three zones,” Irish coach Patrick Gore said. “There were times where we got a little lost out there, a little lost defensively and [Driscoll] settled us down. He was probably our MVP today.”
Skating just eight players, the Warriors looked fatigued throughout the game but kept the Irish from running away with it. A power play goal from Michael Bulger knotted the score after Driscoll’s early strike, then Mark Guidone cut the Warriors’ deficit down to one with a nifty goal in tight for a 3-2 Irish lead after two periods.
“They didn’t give us an inch,” Gore said. “If we simplified our game it probably would have been easier, but any time we gave them half of an inch, they jumped on us. Give credit to their guys, their goalie and their coach, they played really hard.”
Boasting a noticeable height difference, the Irish used their size to force turnovers and it seemed like whenever the Warriors made a mistake, the Irish made it hurt.
“We have a group of skilled forwards and big boys, that’s the biggest thing,” Gore said. “As the tournament went on as the game got more important, we started to clamp down defensively. We were able to cut down some plays and that’s the biggest thing in a championship game. The team that makes less mistakes and the team that capitalizes on them usually comes out on top.”
Jay Cunicell potted a goal after a failed clearing attempt from the Warriors in the second and George Karayiannis pushed it to 3-1 following a scramble in front of the Warriors net.
The defeat was the first all tournament for the Warriors, who allowed just one goal in three round-robin games, while the Irish finished 3-0-1, with a tie to the Holy Name Stars during its second qualifying game.
“Any time you enter any sort of competition or tournament, you always want to be the team standing last,” Gore said. “The boys worked hard. They’re a fun, skilled group and we’re happy and honored to walk out of here with a gold medal.”
Ryan Ames can be reached at 860-801-5094 or on Twitter @_RyanAmes.