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    Saturday, July 13, 2024

    A great day for hockey, as Norwich club makes home debut

    Norwich Hockey Club players celebrate with the Norwich Free Academy student section after scoring against the 95 Giants in United Tier 1 Hockey League action on Sunday at the RoseGarden Ice Arena in Norwich. (Sean D. Elliot/The Day)
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    Norwich Hockey Club Félix-Antoine Laflamme battles 95 Giants’ Alex Troubh for the puck along the boards in United Tier 1 Hockey League action on Sunday at the RoseGarden Ice Arena in Norwich. (Sean D. Elliot/The Day)
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    Norwich Hockey Club head coach Wayne Sheehan congratulates his team after a score against the 95 Giants in United Tier 1 Hockey League action on Sunday at the RoseGarden Ice Arena in Norwich. (Sean D. Elliot/The Day)
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    Norwich — The game ended Sunday with the Norwich Hockey Club winning 9-1 and the players headed to the section of glass that separated them from the student section, where a raucous celebration ensued on both sides.

    Outside the RoseGarden Ice Arena in Norwich it was 80 degrees and counting, but inside, it was hockey weather, as Norwich topped the 95 Giants from Massachusetts in what was the Norwich home-opener.

    The student section, which wore jeans and hoodies, drank hot chocolate and alternated their cheering between “N-F-A, N-F-A!” and “Cana-da, Cana-da!” adopting their fellow Norwich Free Academy students — many of whom arrived here from Canada to attend NFA and play hockey to coincide with the club’s inaugural season — in full.

    “I came here for this,” said NFA junior Jacob Martineau, a 5-foot-11 forward from Saint-Agathe-de-Lotbiniere in Quebec, who led the team with four goals and an assist. “We saw the students really love us. The coaches and teachers ... I was really grateful to come here and it’s just really fun.”

    “How great were our students today?” Norwich head coach Wayne Sheehan said. “I see them interacting (with the players) on campus but to have the student turnout, cheering these kids on for their first home game, was awesome. Honestly, with the diversity we have on campus, I figured (the players) would fit right in and they have.”

    There are 15 international students, all of whom attend NFA, on the team, which is unaffiliated with the Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference. Norwich competes in the Connecticut Hockey Conference and the United Tier 1 Hockey League.

    Norwich, with a 40-game schedule between now and March, is 4-0, including a showcase it competed in last weekend.

    Martineau, serving as the team’s co-captain along with fellow forward Tyler Pazin, has a French-Canadian accent. Sheehan, originally from Tewksbury, Massachusetts, has a Boston accent.

    Together, along with the noisemakers clattering and vuvuzela’s honking Sunday, it was the perfect background for hockey.

    “Like in the warmup, we were all together getting pumped for the game,” said Martineau, whose mother Alexandra, grandmother and sister all made the seven-hour trip for the game. “I think we’re coming together as a team. We showed today by winning 9-1. I chose NFA because it was the first time there was hockey here. I talked multiple times on Zoom with coach Wayne and I fell in love with the school.”

    Norwich took a 1-0 lead at the 10:49 mark of the first period on a goal by Felix-Antoine Laflamme, with Laflamme skating to beat the opposing goalie one-on-one. Norwich led 3-0 after one period on Martineau’s first goal of the game with 12.6 seconds remaining.

    Martineau added three in the second period as Norwich extended the lead to 7-1.

    Laflamme and Pazin added two goals each and Julien Avignon-Bourque had one. Goalies Nicolas Halle-Tanco and Noah Koscher combined for the win.

    “Oh, my gosh, it’s been a challenge and amazing fun,” Sheehan said. “One of the things we did right out of the gate was a team-building exercise at Tree Trails. They connected right from Day 1. The boys are really starting to believe in each other.

    “I think they like the idea of building something. Clearly, if we can stay focused and work hard, we’re going to build something special this season.”

    v.fulkerson@theday.com

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