CT Eagles Hockey beats Tri-Town to win Div. III Title

Story by Colette Dreher, Staff Writer

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The last time William Cannella was asked about the Connecticut Eagles Hockey team, he described the program as one that had made significant progress from where they had ranked in the past years. He said, “I wasn’t there last year, but I know they only won 4 games which were the most they had ever won I think. And this year, we are 10-2-2 so far so there’s certainly been a big improvement.”

Cannella could not have been more right.

The CT Eagles Hockey Team improved their record as they defeated multiple great teams, including the #1 seed, Staples, to qualify for the Championship game hosted at Ingalls Rink at Yale University. They became Connecticut Div. III Champions, beating their most familiar competition, Tri-Town, 7-3. They had faced and beat Tri-Town twice prior to the championship game.

Usually, nerves would accompany every game, because no win is ever predetermined. But for the Eagles, this game was a breeze—the same as any other against Tri-Town. Cannella said, “I’m not really the type of guy that gets nervous before games and I think it’s because I try to stay in a routine every game. We’d beat them twice already this year and there was no doubt that we were the better team. It was our game…we just had to go out there and take it.”

Teammate Kyle Marino agreed with Cannella, saying, “I wasn’t that nervous because our semifinal game was a very hard fought one against the number one seed. We also had played Tri-Town before and beat them so that helped calm my nerves.”

The team was ahead by multiple goals the whole time. The boys grew confident after scoring three goals in the first period. Cannella and Marino agreed that the highlight of the game was when their teammate, Kevin Close, a senior from Waterford, scored a hat-trick, or three goals in a single game.

“Watching our captain absolutely take over the game and notch a hat trick in his last high school game was pretty cool. In his first few seasons he suffered on some bad teams so it was nice to see him have some success. He’s definitely someone I look up to,” said Cannella.

Marino added, “It was great that Kevin was able to end his high school hockey career with a hat trick and a state championship.”

Jake Verbridge, a Stonington High sophomore, is another key player for the Eagles. He shared how he felt when the game ended and they had clinched the state title: “It felt awesome as we all piled on our goalie and threw our gloves and helmets in the air, but it really came to me as I undressed in the locker room and said to myself,  ‘Wow…this just happened.’”

The CT Eagles took a lot of pride in their successes of the season. “We had a plaque that we were all passing around and kissing and everyone was so happy. It was everything we had worked towards all season and that moment was our reward,” said Cannella.

The three players believe that they have a great chance at having an impressive season next year, though there will be a few new challenges. “With our win this year, we are moving up a division next year so the competition will be better,” mentioned Cannella. Though this may seem scary, the boys are not worried.

Cannella continued, “We had a young team this year and most of us will be back so I only expect us to improve. I think we’ll be very competitive. And who knows? We seem to thrive in the underdog role so I would definitely not count us out next year.”

Marino agreed: “I do think we have a really good chance [to have a good season] because we only lost two starters and our core is really young.”

Stonington is proud of the few men and women who represent our town on the CT Eagles Hockey Team, and for a sport that is usually neglected in high school, they are making themselves noticeable.

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CT Eagles Hockey beats Tri-Town to win Div. III Title