Eagles come out flying and rout Redhawks 7-1
Norwich — The Eastern Connecticut Eagles scored three goals in the first period of Wednesday’s hockey game.
In the first three minutes.
“That was so unbelievable,” Eastern Connecticut senior co-captain Zach Bradley said.
There’s a lot of unbelievable going on this season with the Eagles, who tore through the rival Redhawks, 7-1, at the RoseGarden Ice Arena.
Eastern Connecticut has more wins this season (7-1-1) than it did last season (four). And almost as many wins as the previous two seasons (eight).
“This is absolutely a surprise for us,” Bradley said. “One big thing for us is the depth. In the previous years, we’ve only had two good forward lines. This year, we’re rolling out three lines, so that’s a really nice thing. It’s an advantage.”
Quenten Dean, an Eagles senior co-captain, said, “We didn’t have (this level of talent) the last couple of years, so it’s really been surprising and a lot of fun.”
Six different players scored for Eastern Connecticut. Sophomore Kyle Jacobson had two goals and two assists and classmate Evan Tower added a goal and two assists. Senior co-captain Kevin Close and junior Ryan Huta each had a goal and an assist.
Junior Riley Jordan added two assists, sophomore Will Cannella and Dean scored, junior Trent Hughson had an assist, and sophomore Rylin Fowler had 14 saves for the Eagles, who are comprised of players from Fitch, Ledyard, East Lyme, Waterford, Wheeler, Stonington, Griswold and Hale-Ray.
Junior Kenneth Beguhl scored and senior Andrew Bannon had the assist for the Redhawks (2-10). The co-op has players from NFA, St. Bernard, Montville, Bacon Academy, Lyman Memorial and Killingly.
There are many more positive changes for Eastern Connecticut, among them depth. It has 26 players this season, allowing the Eagles to do things they’ve never done before, like intrasquad scrimmages and scheduling JV games.
“You don’t have an intrasquad scrimmage with 14 or 15 guys and one goalie,” Eagles head coach Randy Craig said. “The past two years, I’ve had one goalie. This year I have two goalies, and I have the ability to do a full 10-on-10 scrimmage. … Being able to do an intrasquad scrimmage is something that a lot of coaches don’t have the luxury (of doing).”
Eastern Connecticut also benefited from realignment. Eastern Connecticut Conference athletic directors moved Stonington players from the Redhawks to the Eagles.
“It made more sense geographically,” Craig said. “The kids who live in Stonington don’t have to drive past my rink to Norwich to play. The only one that didn’t make a lot of sense to me is we’ve got Griswold.
“The major reason for the program’s improvement is those three senior captains. Kevin Close, Zach Bradley, Quenten Dean ... those three guys have gone through four years of growth, and they’re leaders, and they’ve dragged those young guys along. Would the team be as successful without the young talent? Certainly not. The young talent gets you a long way, but it doesn’t get you a long way without leadership.”
Close started Wednesday’s clubbering with an unassisted goal 51 seconds into the game. Cannella scored a minute later. Dean made it 3-0, and the game was just two minutes, 44 seconds old.
“We have guys who can put the puck in the net, which we didn’t have before,” Craig said. “We can play run-and-gun with anybody. We have speed.”
Bradley said, “I look up, and it’s one goal, two, three. It’s hard to lose when you’re up 3-0 in three minutes. ... Beating (the Redhawks) is such a huge thing for us.”
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