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Friday, March 15, 2013

D3 Final Preview

By: Luke Devoe

CIAC Boys Ice Hockey Division III Championship
(1) Newington-Berlin vs. (3) Bolton-Coventry-Rockville
Saturday March 16, 1:30 pm
Ingalls Rink, New Haven

One team has been here before.  They've seen this level of play and witnessed first hand the pressure, anticipation and hype that goes along with playing for a state title.  That of course would be defending DIII champion Newington-Berlin.  The Indians come into action Saturday hungry to repeat and hope to follow up a fantastic 2-1 championship victory over Northwest Catholic with one over an upstart, defensive minded Bolton-Coventry-Rockville squad.  The seeds are the same (1 vs. 3).  The venue is the same.  Many of the Indians' weapons are the same and they are still riding the stellar play of senior goaltender Drew O'Leary.  The only thing that is different is the team hanging out on the opposing bench.  The differences in last years NWC team and this year's BCR group are staggering.  While Newington-Berlin had to shut down a dynamic offense last season, this year they hope their offense will be enough to beat BCR's talented senior goalie Cam Earle and a host of able bodied, defensively geared skaters in front of him.

The two have met before.  Two times in fact this year.  In the first meeting the Indians needed only a second period Tyler Aldieri goal and an outstanding 33 save effort from O'Leary to top BCR.  The second meeting would be as tight as the first with the two skating to a 1-1 tie behind another stellar effort from O'Leary who notched 43 saves in the victory.  Rams goalie Cam Earle was impressive as well tallying 24 saves.  Hunter Byram (BCR) and Justin Pratte (NB) tallied the only goals in that one.  Needless to say when these two get together it's a defensive display.

Indians again rocking the bleached out look.
The Indians are led by all world talent in senior forward BJ Richard.  Richard leads Newington-Berlin in scoring with 42 points (22 G, 20 A) and was most recently featured as the #1 play on SportsCenter's Top 10 with a ridiculous goal.  It can be seen by clicking here.  But the Indians do not revolve solely around Richard's filth and heroics.  They are a deep squad and coach Dave Harackiewicz isn't afraid to cycle four lines, something he did in their come from behind semi final win over Masuk.  The Indians received a gift when junior Dan Roberts decided to leave prep school at Westminster and join them for the stretch run.  Roberts has notched 20 points in only 11 games.  They have eight players in double figures and boast some of the state's best depth with players like Matt Harackiewicz, Luca and Marco DiPaola hopping over the boards.  In the semi's they faced a pumped up and ready to fight (5) Masuk Panthers squad.  Masuk appeared on the verge of notching a monstrous upset carrying a 1-0 lead over the mighty Indians into the third period only to allow four Newington-Berlin goals in the final stanza.  That depth and ability to keep his top line rested served coach Harackiewicz well in that one.  Richard scored twice including an empty netter while Harackiewicz and Tyler Mangiafico added the other two tallies.  O'Leary stopped 19 of 20 to earn the victory and allow the Indians to punch their ticket to Saturday for the second year in a row.

Morton's double OT goal sent the Rams into celebration mode.
On the other side the Bolton-Coventry-Rockville Rams just kept it simple this year.  Keep pucks away from senior goalie Earle, score enough and beat the teams that are put in front of you.  Never was this jazzy, never did anyone claim the Rams would run away with things but believe you me, no one was rooting harder for St. Bernard-Bacon-NFA in overtime against the Rams than Newington-Berlin fans after the two tight affairs the Rams gave the Indians already this year.  The Rams are led from the goal on out.  Cam Earle has been everything for them this year.  He's notched nine shutouts and the Rams have only allowed 2+ goals four times all year...all four of those games were wins.  Not to be lost in the defensive shuffle are a few guys who could light the lamp on any given night.  Senior J.R. Piretti has been BCR's rock with the puck this year and is flanked nicely by juniors Eddie Bates, Nate Tonzi and sophomore Kevin Morton, the heroic goal scorer in the second overtime against NFA-St. Bernard-Bacon in their semifinal win.  It's a team effort when it comes to BCR and while there aren't any Richardses or Robertses on their roster they have a collective who believe in what head coach Chris Stevenson is preaching.  On Tuesday, their dreams seemed almost as in doubt as Newington-Berlin's.  The St. Bernard-Bacon-NFA Saints were flying.  Seniors Joey Mitchell and Denzel Dickerson were moving the puck all over the ice and sophomore goalie Jonah Beauton was fantastic frequently thwarting quality chances from the Rams.  Flashback... the Rams scored first on a Tonzi tally in the first period only to have the Saints score to knot it at 1 on a freak goal from an impossible angle that Earle would probably have wanted back.  The game then drastically shifted into the Saints' favor and after a frantic end of regulation and an electric overtime period the Rams got the bounce they needed when Morton corralled his own rebound and potted one past a sprawled out Beauton sending the BCR faithful and skaters into hysterics.  It wasn't a shutout for Earle but his efforts were incredible especially when tested late.

That sets us up for Saturday.  Two proven, tested and skilled senior netminders.  A potent offense with a bit of a swagger versus a blue collar, neutral zone clogging D group.  It should be one for the ages.  I'm as excited as anyone for Prep/NDWH and EC/Fairfield but these two teams have proven how tight and exciting their meetings can be.  It should be a dandy.  As far as a prediction, I have to go with the team that exhibited some serious "stick-to-it-ivness" on Tuesday in playing the patience game and coming back to beat Masuk convincingly.  I like BCR and I'm as big of a Cam Earle supporter as you'll find but their offense struggled to get going against a lesser Saints club.  Anything is possible with Earle in net but Newington-Berlin may just have too much at this time of the season.  Newington-Berlin 2, BCR 1.

On a more important note, The Hartford Courant's Matthew Conyers reports on how two of these Newington-Berlin Indians will go on to serve out country in the U.S. Marine Corps after graduation.  Thanks in advance for your admirable service boys and nice work finding this gem Matt.  If you're on the fence with who to root for tomorrow, this may make your decision easier.  Click here for Conyers' article.


  1. Were you at the BCR-NFA/St.Bs game?

    your description of the overtimes is a bit off - hence the question.

  2. I was in attendance. Enjoyed the electricity at the end of regulation and both overtime periods. Where is your disagreement?

  3. BCR outshot them 12-4 in the opening OT carrying the play big time, and then obviously had the better legs in the 2nd OT. The way you wrote it up made it sound like the OT goal was lucky. It was a goal scored through hard work, tenacity and creativeness by Morton and his teammates.