NEWINGTON, March 3, 2020 – It was about 10 months ago that officials from Newington High were negotiating with Canton High officials about the possibility of the Warriors joining the Indians’ co-op hockey program.
The Indians were already in a co-op agreement with Berlin, Cromwell and Manchester. Still, they needed additional players. Last May, Canton agreed to join the program for two years.
“It kept our program alive,” long-time Newington head coach David Harackiewicz said. “We were short of kids. They’ve had a tremendous impact not only on the ice but off the ice as well.”
Canton has just five players on the squad but three skaters are among the starting five skaters each game including defensemen Chris Brandon and Zach Joerg. Forward Braedon Humphrey is also a starter.
“We were looking for a handful of players and we’re delighted to have them them,” Harackiewicz said. “They’ve meshed well with the kids and they have been a joy to coach.”
Humphrey, a sophomore forward, has scored four goals with nine assists for 13 points while Joerg, a senior defenseman, has five goals and four assists for nine points. Joerg had a pair of goals in Saturday’s 5-4 overtime win over Joel Barlow co-op to close out the regular season.
Brandon has three goals and nine assists for 12 points but he has been a huge addition to the defense that has pitched nine shutouts in 20 games. “He has been dominant in a lot of games. He just has a presence about him. He doesn’t panic with the puck and he knows what do with it. He has been the backbone of our defense.”
Brandon had at least one point in six of the last seven games.
“We wanted to step up and fill the gap,” Brandon said. “The first few weeks you get used to it. It’s a good group of guys and it was easy to get right into the thick of things.”
Said Joerg, “We have a great group of kids (on this team). Within two weeks, we were all best of friends. It’s been a very good team.”
Newington co-op finished with a 17-3 record and second in the CCC South with an 8-2 mark behind Wethersfield co-op (17-3, 9-1 CCC South) that includes Middletown, Plainville and Rocky Hill. Newington will probably be the No. 2 seed when the CIAC Division III tournament rankings are released next week.
The Indians went to the Division III semifinals a year ago. They hope to do that again and perhaps earn a spot in the Division III title game at Yale University’s Ingalls Arena. The semifinals and championship game will be played at Yale.
“It’s everyone’s goal to get to Yale,” Harackiewicz said. “We got there last year and lost late in a semifinal to the team that won it all. With this team, I would be disappointed if they didn’t get to Yale (and the Final Four). We have a legitimate shot to get there and play in the finals.”
Other Canton players on the Newington squad include sophomore Nikolas Giotsas, who joined the team in late December at the urging of his Canton classmates. Giotsas (two goals, two assists, four points) is the goalie on the lacrosse team. Senior Carson Humphrey is also on the team but his season was cut short when he tore an ACL in his knee in practice before the season began.
Brandon, Carson Humphrey and Joerg were among six seniors honored in the final game of the regular season against the Joel Barlow co-op (Abbott Tech, Weston) last Saturday at Newington Arena.
For the second straight game, Newington fell behind, trailing 3-1 after two periods. Brandon and Giotsas provided some sold defense while Braedon Humphrey scored his fourth goal of the year in the first period to put the Indians on the scoreboard.
But spurred on by a raucous crowd, Newington co-op erased a two-goal deficit in the third period, tying the game with 40 seconds left in regulation. The Indians scored with 44 seconds left in OT to secure the win.
A slow start last Wednesday cost Newington co-op a share of the CCC South championship that Indians could have secured with a victory. Hall/Southington scored on their first shift of the game and scored three goals in the first period in a 4-1 victory.
The Indians will see Hall/Southington again on Thursday in the semifinals of the CCC South tournament at 8:15 p.m. at Newington Arena. The winner advances to Saturday’s CCC South final against either No. 4 seed E.O. Smith or top seed Wethersfield co-op at Freitas Arena on the campus of the University of Connecticut at 4 p.m.
Newington expects their first round CIAC Division III contest to be on Monday, March 9, at 6 p.m. at Newington Arena.