HARTFORD - This past weekendâ€™s Nutmeg State Games roller hockey tournament presented a unique opportunity for local competitors, which made up a great percentage of those that wound up on the medal stand when the tournament concluded on Sunday.
Four local teams played in three different divisions, and almost all of them were products of roller hockey leagues at the Plainville Indoor Sports Arena (PISA). While the weekendâ€™s action presented a chance to play against new faces from outside the Nutmeg State, it was also an opportunity to face familiar foes in a different setting.
â€śThere are a couple guys from a lot of the teams that are from (PISA),â€ť Jake Vitali of Bristol-based Team Kraken said. â€śOur team has been playing (at the Nutmeg State Games) for a few years, but we all play together during the year at PISA.â€ť
PISA had its own teams at the tournament, both of which competed for gold medals at the 18 & Under and the Silver Open Division, while groups like Team Kraken represented an extension of PISA.
Devin Norton, who spent time with both PISA teams throughout the weekend, summed up PISAâ€™s large showing when asked how much of a crowd plays roller hockey in Plainville when the Nutmeg Games arenâ€™t in action.
â€śPretty much everyone here is from PISA,â€ť Norton said. â€śTeams at PISA break up into different teams to play here, so thereâ€™s a chance youâ€™re going to play against somebody you know.â€ť
A large contingent of the crowd was familiar, but for the members of PISA leagues playing in the Nutmeg Games, it was a refreshing change of pace to take on teams that they hadnâ€™t grown used to facing after years of league play in Plainville.
â€śOh yeah, itâ€™s really great,â€ť Vitali said. â€śOver at PISA we play against the same few teams over and over again. A lot of the guys there play on four different teams, so we see a lot of the same guys over and over again. There are teams here from Long Island and all over the place (at the Nutmeg State Games).â€ť
When going up against teams from New York, New Jersey and southern Connecticut, PISAâ€™s players noticed an uptick in challenge level, whether it be due to unfamiliarity or an increased talent level. Either way, the competiveness showed in the 18 & Under game for the bronze medal, where PISA needed a thrilling shootout win to take down the East Coast Mustangs from New York.
â€śItâ€™s either the same or a bit more challenging, depending on who you play,â€ť Norton said of the competition level. â€śSome of these guys play all year around. Itâ€™s probably not as competitive at PISA compared to here.â€ť
For PISAâ€™s players, the heightened challenge could also have been due to the rink at the Koeller Community Sports Center. The facility at Trinity College presented a change of pace for PISA in more areas than the out-of-state teams.
â€śItâ€™s a lot bigger and wider,â€ť Norton said of the rink that hosted the Nutmeg State Games. â€śPISA is more compact. Itâ€™s maybe half of this size. Itâ€™s more fun to get to move around and stuff.â€ť
Of course, the stage of competition was kicked up a notch due to the bragging rights that was no longer confined to just Plainville. Teams were fighting for regional supremacy, giving the annual games greater stakes than at PISA.
â€śAt PISA itâ€™s more relaxed,â€ť Vitali said. â€ś(Itâ€™s) just a different style of hockey.â€ť