Hockey team looking at good slot in post-season

By BRIAN JENNINGS

STAFF WRITER

A pair of wins this past week set up the Eagle ice hockey team for prime real estate in the post-season, and Wethersfield-Middletown-Rocky Hill-Plainville coach, Dennis Tulimieri, said that focus is what’s largely helped the team maintain their successful stride throughout the regular season.

“I feel that we have confidence in our ability,” the coach said. “But we also understand that there are things we have to get better at. We set our goals and keep working towards them, continuing to work hard every day.”

Win at Enfield-East Granby-Stafford

FEB. 20—WMRP began the week at the Enfield Twin Rinks on Monday, where they locked up second place in the CCC South with a 5-1 triumph over Enfield-East Granby-Stafford in their final regional game of the regular season.

“The ice surface in that arena is kind of small,” said Tulimieri. “It was a little bit difficult for us to use our speed that mocks most of our offensive success. But we played a pretty solid game from beginning to end.”

Ben Mroczka put WMRP on the scoreboard first with a goal midway through the first period. After going scoreless through the second period, WMRP extended their lead to a three-goal advantage, 3-0, with scores from Paul Wheatley and Zac Forrest early in the third.

The Enfield co-op team scored their lone goal of the contest moments later. WMRP capped off the victory with a couple more goals by Forrest and Wheatley.

Forrest, Trevor Piecewicz, and Tyler Piecewicz contributed with assists. WMRP committed five of the 10 penalties in the game.

Win at Sheehan

FEB. 25—The Eagles remained out on the road at Choate Rosemary Hall in Wallingford on Saturday and earned their fifth-straight win with a 4-0 blanking of Sheehan, recording their sixth shutout on the year.

Wheatley performed the hat trick with three goals in the first period. Paul Ciarcia added the fourth goal midway through the third period.

“We started off very strong in the first period,” said Tulimieri. “Then we backed off a little with the intensity and focus in the second period. But, we came back and played a very good third. If this team hits a bump in the road, they regroup very quickly and straighten it out.”

Goalie Stephen Vaughan saved 11 shots on goal with most coming in the second period. Towards the end of the game, Vaughan recorded a close save in front of the net to keep the shutout alive.

Tyler Piecewicz (2) and Trevor Piecewicz contributed with assists. WMRP only committed just one of the six penalties in the game.

The Eagles will close out the regular season when they travel to the SoNo Ice House in Norwalk on Monday, Feb. 27 to take on Norwalk-Brien McMahon (5-13-1). WMRP finished with a 9-3 regional record and placed as runner-up to Farmington Valley (15-4, 10-1) in the CCC South.

WMRP is also 16-3 overall and currently second in Division II with Woodstock Academy sitting atop in first. The Eagles haven’t played the Centaurs once this season, and the only way they could is if they met up in the final of the Division III tournament.

Tulimieri said that the Centaurs don’t scare them, but they do have respect for the team that is 17-2-1 overall and 12-1 against Division III teams this season.

“They have some very good players and guys that can put the puck away,” the coach said. “Our job will be to contain that a bit, but sometimes, the best way to contain it is to generate your own offense. Most of the time in postseason play, defense and goaltending are going to help you win.”

Tulimieri went on to say that Woodstock Academy is not the team’s first concern right now though. Their first concern is playing No. 3 EO Smith-Tolland (11-9, 8-4) in the first round of the CCC South regional tournament following their regular season finale at Norwalk-Brien McMahon. The Bucks are coming off a pair of losses, one of those loses, 4-3, coming to Newington Co-op (3-13-3).

“The Newington game was a surprise, but those things happen,” said Tulimieri. “They’re a pretty solid team this year, but have had a couple of injuries this year. They took a couple of their players out.”

The other first-round matchup will feature top-seeded Farmington Valley against No. 4 Hall-Southington (9-8-3, 5-6-1).

To comment on this story or to contact sports writer Brian Jennings, email him at bjennings@southingtonobserver.com.