NEWINGTON, April 1, 2021 – A week has past but the memories will only grow stronger and more vivid.
It was one week ago that the Newington co-op boys hockey team met their rivals from Wethersfield in the semifinals of the CCC South tournament at Newington Arena. At stake was a spot in the league championship game and for the Blue and Gold of Newington, a little revenge was on the line as well.
Only four days earlier, Wethersfield had dashed Newington’s chances for an undefeated season with a 2-0 victory. And Newington was looking for an opportunity to win a conference tournament – something they hadn’t achieved in nearly 10 years – 2012.
Yes, the teams expected a close match. But no one expected a five-overtime classic.
Newington co-op tied the game at 2-2 with a power play goal from sophomore Evan Howard (Canton) with 8:13 left in regulation with assists from Kilian Ranger and Braeden Humphrey (Canton).
The two teams played on in overtime – one after another. Four 8-minute periods were played without anyone getting a puck pasts Newington goalie Andrew Fogarty or Wethersfield freshman Matthew Ruck. Fogarty made seven saves in the fourth OT, including a few from point-blank range.
In the fifth overtime, Newington finally scored. Newington’s Joey Petronio checked Wethersfield’s Spencer Bartone off the puck behind the Eagles’ net, took a step and sent a great pass to Howard, who was driving toward the net.
Howard’s shot whistled wide of the net. It wasn’t too far but enough and hit the end boards and rolled toward the opposite end of the rink.
But Newington’s Blake Blakewood kept the puck in the zone and fired a quick pass over to Sam Davies, who a step and ripped a shot that just sailed over the left shoulder of Ruck and into the net with 3:09 left in the period igniting a raucous celebration among the Newington squad about 10 minutes before midnight.
Newington, whose co-op program includes players from Canton, Berlin, Cromwell and Manchester, won their CCC South championship two days later with a 5-0 win over Tri-Town (Ellington, Somers, East Windsor).
No one will forget the game that got them to the championship game.
“That was as about as even a game that you can get,” Humphrey said. “Neither team would give up. That was sheer will vs. sheer will and it was great.”
Humphrey and Howard, two of the four Canton players on the squad, start on defense and played extending minutes on the ice. Each overtime period – beginning with the second OT – was 4-on-4 instead of the usual 5-on-5.
“Wethersfield is just as good a team as we are, better in some ways. We’re better in some other areas. It was just great competition and a well-fought battle,” Humphrey said.
Added Howard, “That game could have easily gone either way. Both teams had their chances. It was incredible.”
Newington co-op coach Dave Harackiewicz has been coaching high school hockey since 1992. He was the head coach for the Cornell women’s hockey team for five years (1985-89). In 1984, he was a graduate assistant coach under legendary coach Jerry York at Bowling Green, which beat Minnesota-Duluth at Lake Placid, N.Y., in four OT.
The marathon against Wethersfield became a bit of blur.
“It was kind of surreal after the second overtime,” Harackiewicz said. “There was not really much to say to players at that point. It was all internal motivation. It was all them at that point.
“Both teams gave everything they had,” he said. “It was mentally exhausting on both ends for the players and coaches. It was a classic high school game. They hit the post in OT. They stopped a (Newington) breakaway in OT.”
It was Davies who went 1-on-1 with Rook in the fourth OT after he stole the puck at the blue line but Rook made the stop with 46 seconds left in the period.
Rook made 28 saves while Fogarty made 36.
“He was rock solid in net,” Harackiewicz said. “They had some point-blank chances and he was calm, cool and collected. He was solid and got better as overtime went on. He had to make some big saves when we had to kill that penalty (in the third OT).”
Added Fogarty, “We were all tired but it came down to who the best stamina and we pulled it off.”
By the time, the fifth OT session some players were holding their sticks a little lower than usual. But Newington found enough energy to end the marathon.
“You really just keep reminding yourself of what you are doing it for. Just one more final push,” Humphrey said. “We talk a lot on the bench and they’re always pushing (for us) to do better. One fact was that if we won, our parents would get to see us play one final time. That really fired us up.”
Wethersfield was the home team in the 2-0 win and the home team in this marathon. Each player on the home team can invite two relatives to the game while the parents of the visiting players need to watch the game streamed on the intranet. With a win, Newington would be the home team for the CCC South championship game.
Don’t forget about a crucial non-goal early in the third period. Leading 2-1, the Eagles scored early and it looked like they would have a huge two-goal lead. But the goal was waved off when a Wethersfield played collied with Fogarty and drove him into the net, pushing the net off its moorings.
You could go up and down the lineup and find a spot when someone made a play in this game.
“That was the best game you could hope for to show the spirit of each team and who was willing to dig deeper,” Humphrey said.
“In a season where there have been so many memories that haven’t been so great, that (victory) definitely provided the kids — who have worn their masks, followed the (social) distancing (rules) and did all the things we needed to get to this point in the season — some of the best memories in our hockey program’s history,” said Christopher Meyers, Newington’s Director of Athletics and Student Activities. “ We’ve had plenty of successful teams in the state tournament but to have a game that goes five overtimes, to have kids on those first and second lines continue to go back (on the ice) and compete and come up victorious is something these guys will never forget.”
The game is one of the longest in state high school hockey history – but it’s not known for sure since there is no high school hockey record book in Connecticut.
With ice time at a premium, most high school games in the regular season that are tied after regulation play one overtime period and if there is no winner, the game ends in a tie.
If a game goes into multiple OT periods, it is likely to be in a post-season contest.
In the 1999, the CIAC Division I championship game between Notre Dame-Fairfield and New Canaan went to five overtimes at Yale’s Ingalls Rink. Notre Dame won, 3-2 in the fifth overtime with a goal with 3:29 remaining – just 20 seconds shorter than the Newington victory that took 73 minutes and 51 seconds.
Newington 3, Wethersfield 2, 5 OT
Wethersfield (8-2-1) 1 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 — 2
Newington (10-1-1) 0 1 1 0 0 0 0 1 — 3
Goals: Kilian Ranger (N), Evan Howard (N), Sam Davies (N), Chase Millen (W), William McCarter (W); Assists: Ranger 2, Howard 1, Sam Hedlund (N), Braeden Humphrey (N), Blake Blackwood (N), Aaron Cholewa (W) 2, Colby Quinn (W), Spencer Bartone (W); Saves: Matthew Ruck (W) 28, Andrew Fogarty (N) 36; Shots: Wethersfield 38-31
You can relive those moments in SoLu’s streaming broadcast. Look for archived games to find the contest.