New Milford hockey battles its way into postseason
Published 12:08 pm, Wednesday, March 1, 2017
NEW MILFORD - With a flair for the dramatic and a never say die attitude, the New Milford ice hockey team is headed to the CIAC Division II playoffs.
The Green Wave won their final four games of the regular season, tow of those coming in overtime, to secure a postseason berth.
Pairings were expected to be announced Friday and New Milford is expected to be the No. 15 seed and face No. 2 Watertown-Pomperaug on Tuesday.
“We were in do or die mode, we needed to win out to ensure we made the state playoffs,” New Milford coach Scott Capriglione said. “We were 3-13 on the outside looking in with strong competition heading into our last four games.”
A 5-2 loss at Cheshire on Feb. 7 left the Green Wave in dire straights but it was also a game that served as a springboard to better days.
“As a coaching staff we knew we had the talent, we were just young team with only three seniors. We played Cheshire already down players with concussions and then had two players get hurt mid way through the game which left us with three defensemen and five of our regular forwards,” Capriglione said. “We ended up losing but the players came together that day and gave it everything that had.
“It was at that point we gained our identity as a team. The way the players pulled together for the next game was amazing.”
The next game was a 2-1 overtime victory over E.O. Smith-Tolland at UConn Hockey Arena. The Green Wave then blasted Milford Coop 9-1 and edged North Branford 4-3 to set up a Senior Night showdown with Division I East Catholic on Feb. 22.
“It could not have been scripted any better, we knew if we won we eould make the playoffs,” Capriglione said. “Canterbury was packed and we came out flying.”
New Milford took at 2-0 lead into the locker room after the first period. The second period saw the visitors from East Catholic notch a pair of goals to tie the game, 2-2, heading into the third period. The third period was back and forth and the goalies for both teams played outstanding according to Capriglione and the game went to overtime.
The game remained scoreless for the first six minutes of the eight minute OT session. Then with the face off deep in the New Milford zone, senior Tommy Schnieder picked the puck up off the draw and skated the length of the ice. Schnieder flew past the East Catholic defense and reached just past the top of the face off circle where he let a shot go that picked the top corner and the celebration began.
“It was fitting because it was also the anniversary of the miracle on ice,” Capriglione said. “We had our own miracle in New Milford. It was a great night.”
Fittingly senior Payton Meyer scored New Milford’s second goal against East Catholic.
“The seniors have given the underclassmen an amazing example of perseverance and leadership,” Capriglione said. “The way we have finished will lay a solid foundation of what it takes as a team to be successful. Teamwork, hard work and confidence.”