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Newington co-op team erases two-goal deficit to advance to state finals

Newington co-op’s Evan Oliver (15) tries to chase down the puck during Monday night’s CIAC Division III semifinal at Quinnipiac. Newington co-op rallied for a 3-2 win over Rocky Hill. More photos from the game

HAMDEN, March 13, 2023 – One of the reasons that the Newington co-op hockey team has won more than 20 games is their ability to rally and overcome deficits.

The Nor’easters erased a two-goal deficit to beat Conard in the Central Connecticut Conference South championship game. On Monday night, Newington did it again at Quinnipiac University’s M&T Bank Arena.

Trailing upset-minded Rocky Hill by two goals after two periods, No. 3 Newington co-op scored three third-period goals in a span of 3:46 to beat No. 15 Rocky Hill, 3-2 and advance to the CIAC Division III state championship for the second straight year.

The Nor’easters (23-2) will get a chance to defend their state championship against top-seeded Masuk, which eliminated Conard in the other semifinal contest, 3-1. The game is scheduled for Thursday night at Quinnipiac but could be moved to Friday as the CIAC deals with rescheduled games postponed on Tuesday.

“We’ve been a third period team in literally every game,” long-time Newington coach David Harackiewicz said. “We needed to get that first goal. We’ve scored in bunches all year. Once we got that first one, you could see the entire bench erupt and the momentum shifted.”

Newington, which is comprised of skaters from Newington, Canton, Berlin, Cromwell and Manchester, outshot Rocky Hill throughout the game. But Terrier goalie Kyle Kundrath had a shutout going after two periods and the Terriers were playing with the confidence of a team that eliminated No. 2 New Milford and No. 7 Tri-Town in two earlier tournament games.

“They stepped up,” Newington right wing Harrison Ranger said. “They knew what they had to do and the other teams weren’t ready for it.”

The Nor’easters knew what they had to do as well as they began the final 15 minutes of the game

“We have a lot of experience in this group,” Newington center Mike Deegan said. “We’re a lot older than some of the other teams right now. We have a big senior core. That goalie (Kundrath) played an incredible game until we poked one in and he got a little shaky.”

Newington celebrates after tying the game with Rocky Hill in Monday night’s CIAC Division III semifinals at Quinnipiac University. From left, Joshua Beaudoin (4), Tanner Jorczak (18), Gavyn Munson (16) and Evan Howard (17). More photos from the game

The Nor’easters got on the scoreboard with just 2:28 gone in the third period when Kundgrath made the initial save on a shot from Ranger but Evan Oliver stayed on his feet long enough to get the puck into the net to cut the lead to 2-1.

The Newington faithful had just finished cheering 43 seconds later when the Nor’easters tied the game, 2-2. Jack Petronio’s shot put the puck on net and Tanner Jorczak tapped the puck past Kundgrath near the post.

Ranger gave Newington the lead on a shorthanded goal with 9:46 left in the game. He picked up a loose puck and ripped a shot from about 20 feet away that found its way into the net.

“I had space to skate in (onto the puck near the blue line),” Ranger said. “They kinda let me walk in. I was in decent shooting position so I throught, why not? And it went in.”

It was the second consecutive game with a shorthanded goal for Ranger. He had one in the quarterfinal win over Enfield/East Granby/Stafford.

Rocky Hill (9-14) took a 1-0 lead on a goal from Dominick Violette in the first period and added a power play goal from Vincent Howley in the second period for a 2-0 lead.

Newington co-op goalie Jeremy Wagner made 16 saves to earn the win.

The Nor’easters are back in the championship game for the sixth time in program history and the second year in a row. This is the fourth year that Canton has been part of the co-op program.

“We’re really excited,” Harackiewicz said. “It’s so hard to get here no matter if you are a 1, 2, 3 or 4 seed. Every game we’ve had in this tournament has been a battle. We’re very excited to be here (in the final).”

Joshua Grimm (22) tries to get the puck toward the net in Monday night’s CIAC Division III semifinal at Quinnipiac University. More photos from the game

Newington co-op 3, Rocky Hill 2
At Hamden

Rocky Hill (9-14)                  1  1  0  — 2
Newington co-op (23-2)    0  0  3  — 3
Goals: Dominick Violette (RH), Vincent Howley (RH), Evan Oliver (N), Tanner Jorczak (N), Harrison Ranger (N); Assists: Charlie Maxwell (RH), Jeff Thebeau (RH), Violette (RH), Cole Bates (RH), Ranger (N), Jack Petronio (N); Saves: Jeremy Wagner (N) 16, Kyle Kundrath (RH) 24; Shots: Newington 27-18

CIAC Tournament results
Division I
Wednesday, March 15
No. 1 Notre Dame-West Haven (17-3-1) vs. No. 4 New Canaan (15-5-2) at Quinnipiac University, 3/15, 8 p.m.
No. 2 Fairfield Prep (15-5-0) vs. No. 11 Greenwich (8-13-1) at Quinnipiac University, 3/15, 5:30 p.m.
Tuesday, March 21
Two semifinal winners at Quinnipiac University, 7 p.m.

Division II
No. 1 North Haven (20-2-0) vs. No. 12 North Branford (11-9-2) TBA
No. 2 Woodstock Academy (21-1-0) vs. No. 6 Branford (15-7-0) TBA
Monday, March 20
Two semifinal winners at Quinnipiac University, 7 p.m.

Division III
Monday’s semifinals
Masuk 3, Conard 1
Newington co-op 3, Rocky Hill co-op 2
Thursday, March 16
Newington co-op (23-2) vs. Masuk (22-1-2) at Quinnipiac University, 7 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 40 years. He was inducted into the New England High School Wrestling Hall of Fame in 2018.

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