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Newington co-op rallies to top Conard and win CCC South championship

Cole Brandon’s goal with 3:21 left in the third period lifted Newington co-op to a 5-3 win over Conard in the final of the CCC South tournament Friday night in Storrs.

STORRS, March 3, 2023 – Canton’s Cole Brandon scored with 3:21 left in the third period to break a tie and lift the Newington co-op hockey team to a 5-3 win over Conard and the CCC South championship Friday night at Freitas Rink on the UConn campus.

Brandon’s goal highlighted a Newington comeback to give the Nor’easters (20-2) the victory. Conard had a two-goal lead in the second period but Newington, which is comprised of players from Newington, Canton, Cromwell, Berlin and Manchester, scored the final four goals of the game to win the CCC South tournament and the championship.

Canton defenseman Evan Howard had three goals for Newington while Harrison Ranger had four assists. It was the second CCC South tournament victory in three yers for the Nor’easters, who also won the tournament in 2021.

Newington took a 1-0 lead in the first period on a goal by Howard. But the Red Wolves responded with goals by Nolan Trent and John Hodgson within a 2½ minute span to give Conard a 2-1 lead after one period.

Conard (18-4) extended their lead to 3-1 early in the second period on Aiden Emery’s goal. Two late Conard penalties gave the Nor’easters a two man advantage and the Newington squad took advantage.

Howard’s wrist shot off a Mike Deegan pass eluded a screened Red Wolves goalie Blake Ittelson and allowed Newington to cut the Red Wolves lead to one goal, 3-2 with 10 seconds left in the second period.

Energized, the Nor’easters came out strong to start the third period. With the Newington forecheck beginning to hem the Red Wolves in their own zone, Howard struck again ripping a shot from just inside the blue line to tie the score at 3-3 with 4:21 remaining and to complete the hat trick.

Though the Red Wolves tried to push back, Newington goaltender Jeremy Wagner (21 saves) came up with a couple of crucial saves to set the stage for Brandon’s heroics.

A neutral zone faceoff win allowed the Nor’easters to chip the puck into the Conard zone where it was recovered by Ranger. His attempt to move the puck back to the point deflected off a Red Wolves stick where Nor’easter defenseman Mason Buckley managed to keep the puck in and move it to teammate Evan Oliver.

Oliver, spotting Brandon skating hard to the net, hit him with a perfect pass. Brandon’s shot beat Ittelson cleanly over his shoulder.

Although the Red Wolves tried to create some chances to tie the score, the Newington defense held fast. After Conard pulled its goaltender for an extra attacker, Newington’s Oliver sealed the victory with an open net goal assisted by Josh Grimm and Ranger.

Newington co-op celebrates after winning the CCC South Tournament with a 5-3 win over Conard in Storrs on Friday.

Defending state champion Newington co-op returns to action in the CIAC Division III state tournament on Monday when they host No. 14 Bethel/Brookfield/Danbury co-op on Monday at 6 p.m. at Newington Arena.

Newington is the No. 3 seed in the tournament behind Masuk (17-1-2) and New Milford (17-3).

Newington co-op 5, Conard 3
At Storrs
Conard (18-4)                        2  1  0  — 3
Newington co-op (20-2)      1  1  3  — 5
Goals: Evan Oliver (N), Cole Brandon (N), Evan Howard (N) 3, Aiden Emery (C), Nolan Trent (C), John Hodgson (C); Assists: Emery (C), Brady Narus (C), Harrison Ranger (N) 4, Oliver (N) 3, Mike Deegan (N), Josh Grimm (N), Mason Buckley (N); Saves: Jeremy Wagner (N) 21; Blake Ittelson (C) 23; Shots: Newington 28-24

Paul Helenski contributed to this report

Since 2009, the Collinsville Press has been providing award-winning coverage of sports and news in the Farmington Valley and across Connecticut.

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