NEWINGTON - Talking to Hall-Southington ice hockey head coach Brian Cannon after the team’s season opener against Newington-Berlin Wednesday night, you would think his team just got routed. Cannon was not pleased with his team’s performance yet it was still able to pull out a 3-2 win with a late third-period goal putting the team over the top.
Wins are really all that matters but taking a deeper look into the stats you can understand a little bit more where Cannon was coming from. The Warrior-Knights were outshot 27 to eight in the game and the Indians had the better of the play for the majority of the game.
“It’s nice to get the win,” Cannon said. “I think we were a little bit lucky to get the win though because they certainly had a lot of opportunities, any one of which could have gone in. We had a couple of opportunities that could have gone in, but not as many as them.
“It was not what we wanted to see out there [against Newington-Berlin]. It was a sloppy game by both teams. I didn’t like the way we played [Wednesday] but it will come along.”
As for why the team didn’t play as well as the head coach would have hoped, Cannon thought there were several factors including transportation issues prior to the game.
“We started off with a bus no-show so we scrambled to get over here,” Cannon said. “I think we were unprepared. We didn’t have a bad first period with all of that considered, but we had a bad second and third period.”
Having your opponent outshoot you by more than a 3:1 ratio is a dangerous way to play and Hall-Southington knows that. The Warrior-Knights were able to get away with it this time, but moving forward they are unlikely to be able to make up for that kind of shot differential.
“We really didn’t play well in our own zone,” Cannon said. “When we had the puck, too many times we didn’t move it on time, we didn’t shoot it on time. In other words, we didn’t make the plays when they were there to be made. We hung on to the puck too long and then ended up turning it over either directly or we send the puck to a bad spot.”
Another aspect of the game the head coach was unhappy with was the amount of penalties his team took. Newington-Berlin had five power plays in the game, including one that started with a minute and a half left in the final period.
A positive to come out of all of those penalties though, was Hall-Southington’s penalty kill. The penalty kill defense seemed to perform as well, or possibly even better, than the defense at full strength and it limited opportunities and cleared the zone with regularity.
“A couple of them were honest and a couple of them were dumb,” Cannon said of the penalties. “But the penalty kill did a good job. We have some fast kids out there and they are actually a threat at times once we get going.”
The crazy thing about how well the Warrior-Knights’ penalty kill played is that they haven’t even practiced it this year. Cannon said the team is playing off instincts in the specialty areas right now so that is an encouraging sign moving forward.
A couple of other positives are the play of goalie Zach Monti and the team speed Hall-Southington has. Monti had ten saves in the first period as the Warrior-Knights took a 2-0 lead after one and he came into the game unsure if he would even be in net against the Indians.
“I want to work harder and get better,” said Monti who finished the game with 25 saves. “I need to continue stopping the puck and I need to practice better. The last few practices haven’t been that good for me but the coaches still gave me the start and now I can take some momentum moving forward.”
As for the team speed, Cannon said it showed at times in the win over the Indians, but expects it to make even more of an impact as the season progresses.
“We have good team speed,” Cannon said. “We didn’t use a lot of it [against Newington-Berlin] though. They really didn’t move the puck well enough where they could take advantage of their speed. But we will fix that.”
In the end, it was just the first game of the season and Hall-Southington was able to come away with the victory. Cannon may not have been thrilled with the performance, but he did see some good things and he hopes that will lead to progress.
“It’s something to build on but we have to build fast because we have a three-game week coming up,” Cannon said.
Michael Woolfson can be reached at 860-801-5203 or firstname.lastname@example.org