Surging New Milford ice hockey eyes postseason
NEW MILFORD — Fully healthy for pretty much the first time all season, the New Milford ice hockey team is hitting its stride just in time for the final stretch of the season.
The Green Wave have won four straight games and five of their last six to even their record at 9-9 with two regular-season games to play.
New Milford started the season 4-8 while battling depth issues and inexperience. The return of key players and development of younger members of the team has sparked a turnaround.
“Both Hunter Colburn and Payton Meyer are back from their injuries,” New Milford coach Scott Capriglione said. “Having two experienced juniors back in the lineup has had a major impact. It provides us with more options in the lineup and more time for players to recover between shifts.”
New Milford entered the season with just four seniors on the roster and the injuries to Colburn and Meyer created even more holes to fill. The early part of the season may have been a challenge, but the Green Wave appear to be a batter and more experienced team because of it.
“All the players have raised their games and the younger players now have more game experience,” Capriglione said. “They have learned it is a three-period game and we have the ability to battle back if we are down two or three goals.”
Capriglione said one of the biggest areas of improvement the team has undergone this season is in the confidence department. Now Capriglione would like to see the team focus on coming out strong and trying to set the pace of the game.
The recent winning streak has the team thinking about the postseason. The Green Wave are eighth in Division II and could end up with a home playoff game, which Capriglione would consider a major accomplishment. New Milford is also a win away from a spot in the league playoffs, which has been a goal from the beginning of the season. Capriglione said the team would like another shot to play some of the teams in the conference they did not fair well against at the beginning of the year.
Two of New Milford’s latest wins were in overtime and were games the team might not have pulled out earlier in the season. A 3-2 overtime win on Monday over a strong Watertown-Pomperaug team is the latest example of how the team has grown. Capriglione said that win was a testament to the senior leadership the team had from Avery Hook, Riley Zimmerman, Justin Thompson and Chris Montalvo.
“Our determination has been huge during the streak. The players have developed a never-say-die attitude,” Capriglione said. “Everyone is positive and understanding what they need to do individually to help the team. They have learned to deal with the ups and downs during the games. Keeping an even keel and focusing on what we need to do has been a major contributor to us being able to pull out those close games.”