NEW HAVEN – The Farmington Valley Generals co-op hockey team were hoping to keep the puck moving Friday night against Guilford, the defending Division II champions, in the CIAC Division II state championship game.
The rubber was flying as the Generals put 35 shots on net, scored the first seven goals of the game and rolled to a dominating 7-3 victory and their first state championship as a co-op program at Yale’s historic Ingalls Rink.
Six different players scored goals for top-seeded Farmington Valley (22-3-1) and another four players had assists. That was 10 players with a point. The Generals gave up just 15 shots and three goals, although two came in the final eight minutes after the game had long been decided.
“They did a terrific job,” Generals co-coach Mike Barone said. “I’m so proud of these kids. They will never forget this.”
The Generals are made up of players from Avon (11 players), Farmington (7), Lewis Mills (3) and Windsor (1). The co-op was formed in 2012 with Mills joining the program in 2016.
“The game plan was to get (the puck) out of the (defensive zone) as fast as possible,” said Generals defenseman Peter Hoffman (Avon). “We didn’t want to spend much time in our zone so we just had to get it down the ice. We wanted to let the offense take care of itself.
“In the second period, we caught a rhythm and the offense was doing their job,” Hoffman said. In a span of six minutes and 17 seconds, the Generals had five goals from five different players to take a commanding 7-0 lead.
Barone, who is co-coach with Avon’s Scott Percival, was a bit surprised at the explosion of goals in the second period.
“I think a lot of people didn’t believe in our depth we had from defense to offense to goaltending,” Barone said. “We put (defensemen) Hoffman and (Mario) Bernasconi on (Guilford’s Jack) Ring and (John) DeLucia to shut them down and move them to the outside.”
Guilford had just three shots on net in the first period and 10 through the first two periods. Guilford had come into the game on a 12-game winning streak.
“This was a once in a lifetime opportunity so we played our hearts out,” said the Generals’ Eric Scwheitzer (Avon).
Matthew Arena (Farmington) had two goals for the Generals while Owen Lacourciere (Mills), Jake Percival (Avon), Timothy Arena (Farmington), Kyle Kadziolka (Mills) and Scwheitzer each had one goal. Hoffman, Scwheitzer, Sam Buchanan (Mills), Kadziolka, Percival, Jack Murray (Avon) and Marco Bernasconi (Avon) each picking up an assist.
Goalie Trevor Paluso (Avon) made 12 saves to pick up the victory in net. It didn’t take long for this team to come together – despite being from four different towns.
“As soon as we got together, we gelled. It’s something special,” Paluso said.
Farmington Valley took a 2-0 lead on a pair of goals in less than three minutes. Matthew Arena came in on net and fired a shot past Guilford keeper Mete Yanbul with 3:44 left in the first period. With 26 seconds left, Lacourciere was left untouched in front of the net and sent a shot that deflected off Yanbul and into the net.
The Generals made it 3-0 when Jake Percival tipped in a shot by Sam Buchanan. Less than two minutes later, Matthew Arena got his second goal of the contest with 8:49 left in the second period for a 4-0 lead. Tim Arena made it 5-0 with his first goal of the game and Kadziolka scored off his knees for a 6-0 lead.
Scwheitzer scored for a 7-0 lead. He has played hockey since he was five and was courted by a club team. Others suggested he should attend a prep school to play hockey.
But he decided to play high school hockey with the Generals. “I transferred to high school hockey and it was the greatest decision of my life,” he said. “It’s an amazing opportunity that you don’t get in prep school,” he said. “I’ve made a lot of new friends – life-long friends. It’s a great group of guys. We play together and we love each other. It was a great year.”
While it was the first state title for the co-op, it was the second for Barone, who led Farmington to a Division II title in 2005. Farmington was a stand-alone team at that time. There were no penalties in the game.
Farmington Valley 7, Guilford 3
At New Haven
Guilford (22-3) 0 1 2 — 3
Farmington Valley (22-3-1) 2 5 0 — 7
Farmington Valley 1, Matthew Arena (Peter Hoffman), 11:16; Farmington Valley 2, Owen Lacourciere (Eric Scwheitzer), 14:34; Penalties: none
Farmington Valley 3, Jake Percival (Sam Buchanan), 4:46; Farmington Valley 4, M. Arena (Kyle Kadziolka, Percival), 6:11; Farmington Valley 5, Timothy Arena (Marco Bernasconi), 7:01; Farmington Valley 6, Kyle Kadziolka (Jack Murray), 10:46; Farmington Valley 7, Eric Scwheitzer, 11:17; Guilford 1, John DeLucia (Joe Neleber); Penalties: none
Guilford 2, Jack Ring (DeLucia, Jack Dacey), 8:26; Guilford 3, Jack Dacey (Ring, DeLucia), 13:10; Penalties: none
Shots – Farmington Valley 35 (16-8-11), Guilford 15 (3-7-5)
Power plays — none
Saves – Guilford, Mete Yanbul (L) 35 shots, 28 saves; Farmington Valley – Trevor Paluso (W) 15 shots, 12 saves