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Avon’s rebranded co-op hockey team working to grow

Avon's Nick Sanderson , right, and teammate and Mike Wissuchek, left, pressure E.O. Smith's Sean Duhamel Saturday at Avon Old Farms.

Avon’s Nick Sanderson , right, and teammate and Mike Wissuchek, left, pressure E.O. Smith’s Sean Duhamel Saturday at Avon Old Farms.

AVON – It’s a season of transition with the Farmington/Avon/Windsor co-op ice hockey team.

Instead an awkward name with three town names that doesn’t roll off your tongue and no nickname, the team has rebranded themselves as the Farmington Valley Generals. The squad is now playing in the Southern Division of the Central Connecticut Conference after the CCC eliminated the Eastern Division for ice hockey.

And the Generals are integrating in a new group of players that co-coaches Mike Barone and Scott Percival hope will keep the program moving forward.

There are 22 players in the program and nine are freshmen and sophomores. Just six are seniors.

“The kids are learning to play at a high level,” Generals assistant coach Andy Tomarchio said. “They’re a good bunch of kids. In youth hockey, you have 10 players and everyone plays. Here, you’re starting to use a system and using skills to work within that system.”

The result in the early going has been inconsistent play from the Generals, who have won two of their first five games. On Saturday night, the Generals were tied 1-1 after two periods with E.O. Smith/Tolland but they gave up three goals in a little over two minutes in a 4-1 loss at Avon Old Farms’ Jennings Arena.

“It was youthful exuberance,” Tomarchio said. After the visiting Bucks scored a goal to give E.O. Smith a 3-1 lead, one of the Generals was sent to the penalty box for five minutes for unsportmanlike conduct. E.O. Smith added another goal about a minute later.

“The kid was frustrated after they scored a goal,” Tomarchio explained. “He’s a good kid and he is just going to have to grow from this.”

This is the third year of the co-op program between the three schools.

A year ago, the Generals were 9-11 in the regular season and 4-2 in the now defunct CCC East, finishing second. Farmington Valley earned a spot in the CIAC tournament for the ninth straight year, losing to Bethel/Brookfield/Danbury, 3-1 in the first round of the Division II tournament.

This year, the Generals are in the CCC South with seven other CCC schools including six other co-op teams.

Farmington Valley (2-3, 2-2 CCC South) is led by a core of seniors, who have been with the program for years. Senior Nick Sanderson is a 5-foot-7 forward from Avon, who has already scored seven goals and three assists in five games. He had three goals in a season-opening 4-2 decision over Wethersfield and two goals in a 4-3 win over Hall/Southington and in a 5-3 loss to Conard.

Six-foot senior Jack Wendler is one of the team’s top defenseman while 6-2 forward Dan Rider of Farmington has size, speed and two goals and a team-high five assists already. Sanderson, Wendler (three assists) and Rider are the team’s tri-captains. “The key is everything they bring (to the team) – in and out of the locker room,” Tomarchio said.

Other seniors include goalie Nick Walmer of Farmington, forward Eric Welles of Avon and goalie Jon DiPerna of Avon.

Last Saturday against E.O. Smith, it was scoreless after one period of play. In the second period, E.O. Smith’s Austin Hill tipped in a goal but it was disallowed. Less than a minute later, the Bucks’ Peter Mayer ripped a slap shot into the net to give the visitors a 1-0 lead.

The Generals scored with one second left on a power play when Rider scored with 1:47 left in the second period to tie the game at 1-1. Sanderson had a nice shot on net in the final seconds of the second period but it was turned away.

In the third period, E.O. Smith took a 2-1 lead on a hard shot by Aaron Lasson with 11:08 left in the game. Less than a minute later, Dylan Coughlin slipped one past the Generals with 10:20 remaining for a 3-1 lead.

A five-minute unsportsmanlike conduct penalty put a serious crimp in the Generals’ comeback hopes. A minute later, Evan Valenti scored for the Bucks for a 4-1 lead. Farmington Valley was able to kill off the remaining four minutes of the power play but there wasn’t enough time for the Generals to rally.

The Generals even killed off a 5-on-3 advantage for about a minute after another Farmington Valley player was called for holding. 

E.O. Smith/Tolland 4, Farmington Valley 1
At Avon
EOS/Tolland (4-1, 3-0)              0  1  3  — 4
Farmington Valley (2-3, 2-2)      0  1  0  — 1
Goals: Dan Rider (FV), Peter Mayer (E), Aaron Lassow (E), Dylan Coughlin (E), Evan Valenti (E) 

Upcoming schedule
JANUARY
11: vs. Hall/Southington at Veteran’s Rink, West Hartford, 1 p.m.
15: vs. Glastonbury at Trinity College, 4 p.m.
18: vs. Newington/Berlin/Manchester at Loomis Chaffee, 7:30 p.m.
23: vs. Guilford at East Haven, 5 p.m.
25: vs. East Catholic at Loomis Chaffee, 7:30 p.m.
FEBRUARY
2: vs. Rockville/Bolton/Coventry at Bolton Ice Palace, 7:45 p.m.
5: vs. Watertown at Taft School
8: vs. Newington/Berlin/Manchester at Newington Arena, 1:20 p.m.
12: vs. Rocky Hill/RHAM/Middletown at Cromwell Rink, 8:20 p.m.
15: vs. Conard at Veteran’s Rink, West Hartford, 1 p.m.
19: vs. E.O. Smith/Tolland/Coventry at Freitas Arena (UConn), 7:30 p.m.
22: vs. Wethersfield, Avon Old Farms, 1 p.m.
26: vs. Rocky Hill/RHAM/Middletown, Avon Old Farms, 8 p.m.
MARCH
1: vs. South Windsor at South Windsor Arena, 5:45 p.m.

Gerry deSimas, Jr., is the editor and founder of The Collinsville Press. He is an award-winning writer and has been covering sports in Connecticut and New England for more than 30 years. He was inducted into the New England High School Wrestling Hall of Fame in 2018.

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