By Brittany Burke
As the puck sailed past the University of New Haven goaltender the crowd in the Newington ice rink began to cheer and the entire Central Connecticut State University club hockey team rushed to the ice to celebrate.
Clumped in one group the team cheered and congratulated each other. It was a celebration you would normally see after winning a championship, not the first game of the season, but for the Blue Devils the 3-2 overtime win might as well have been for top spot in the American Collegiate Hockey Association’s national tournament.
“[Overtime] definitely added some adversity to opening night,” said Head Coach Ben Adams. “Guys really had to have a little gut check right off the bat so hopefully that brings them a little closer. I can’t imagine too many other teams opening in this fashion so hopefully it plays to our advantage. The way they jumped onto the ice and celebrated like they just won the cup was good to see that means they’re all focused on the same goal.”
CCSU opened its season at home against the UNH chargers, and were expecting to win, but the game remained closer than anticipated.
With under a minute to play in regulation UNH pulled its goalie to have the extra man on the ice and with 37 seconds left on the clock the play worked. The Chargers managed to net one past CCSU’s Ross Mocko to tie the game at two and eventually force an overtime situation.
At the end of the third, five extra minutes were added and the athletes took their positions on the ice. Much like CCSU had managed to do in most of the game, they dominated UNH offensively, which led to Sean Stoneman’s goal 1:03 into overtime. The quick goal secured the early win for the Blue Devils and gave them the momentum they needed to head into the first half season.
“We knew coming in that we had a strong chance of winning today ,but once the overtime came and I had the Stanley brothers (Ryan and Conor) out there and my partner, Mike Pereira, we just had good chemistry … we knew what we needed to do and the puck bounced our way and good things happen and I shot it to the net,” said Stoneman. “[UNH’s second goal] really gave us a gut check to think that hey, they could come back, so let’s just bury them quick, and we got the job done.”
Despite being forced into overtime by the Chargers, it was the Blue Devils who struck first and remained ahead for the majority of the game.
Matt Siracusa netted the first goal early for the Blue Devils, just 3:16 into the first period. Like typical CCSU fashion, the team managed to score quickly after Siracusa’s for the 2-0 lead with under 16:30 left in the period.
The second goal came 35 seconds after the initial point and was made by Nick Centore from Jon Knobloch.
“We did a great job moving pucks and finding open guys and creating offense for us,” said Adams. “We also did a great job head manning the puck and getting the puck into the various zones, the neutral zone and the offensive zone. I would like to see us toughen up on defense a little bit. Not so much about filling lane and playing our position, which I thought we did well but just winning the one on one battles and eliminating the extra opportunities.”
While the team managed to score multiple times in the first they were shut out for the rest of regulation, although they were getting chances, it’s just a matter of burying the puck. The team is rolling four deep lines due to the amount of talent they have at forward, which will essentially wear out their opponent, who may not have four strong lines to turn to.
Depth is something CCSU relied on in past seasons, but was missing last year. This year’s team has been able to build up the offense with speed, which is something else that will be used to outwork other teams.
“There seems to be a lack of size this year, but they definitely have a lot of speed on offense,” observed hockey alum Ryan Beaulieu as he sat rink side. “There’s a couple new players that are creating a new spark on the offensive line and I think they have a lot of potential if they control the puck and play the game they have and use their speed to their advantage.”
The speed is a good compensation for lack of size and strong defensive core. Another thing that should help CCSU is its goaltending talent. With three strong goaltenders in Mocko, Greg Coco and John Palmieri, coincidentally a deep goaltending core is also something the team had the year they took second in the ACHA Nationals.
CCSU didn’t have much lag time between the win against UNH and its road game against William Paterson in New Jersey the next night. The team might have managed a win against the Chargers, but they could not top the William Paterson powerhouse.
The Blue Devils lost 10-3 on the road with goals coming from Stanley Conor, Adam Goldstein and Andrew Mazurkiewicz.
The team finds themselves back in Newington on Friday Oct. 14 at 10 p.m. to play New Hampshire and then again on Saturday at 8:40 p.m. to play New York University.