WATERTOWN - Monday, February 15 may have been a day from the daily pressures of work, school and just avoiding COVID-19, but to the Watertown-Pomperaug hockey team, it was another day at the office...one which they were more than happy to have.
After months of uncertainty, the Indians are back on ice for a 12-game sprint of a season, and believe it or not, the hit the quarter-pole when they took on new SWC-SCC Division II rival Sheehan High School at the Northford Ice Pavilion.
As the Indians were, Sheehan is another program which was displaced from it’s usual home digs, moving from Choate to Northford for the shortened season.
It was also the first game at which limited spectators were allowed, as the Connecticut Rink Owners Association decided to reverse course and allow one parent or guardian per high school hockey player at each of its 16 state rinks.
The previous guideline, which had been established by the CIAC, banned spectators for the month of February, but on February 10, that course was changed in alignment with the DECD Sector Rule for spectators, which includes the wearing of masks and social distancing within the COVID-19 protocols.
Breaking the ice, so to speak was non-association facility Bennett Rink in West Haven allowed two fans per player into its arena for a doubleheader on February 8 in defiance both the CIAC’s and SCC’s recommendation to keep the arena empty.
After 15 minutes of play, Sheehan held a pretty pedestrian 1-0 lead over the Indians, but that was where the good things came to a screeching halt for the locals, as Sheehan poured on the offense over the remaining 30 minutes in an 8-4 win.
The Indians hung on through a three-goal second period by the Titans, trailing by a still-managable 4-2 after as the teams took the ice for the third period.
Sheehan went in search of the knockout blows and landed then, scoring a power-play goal to increase the lead to 5-2, then adding another pair to W-P’s one to go up, 7-3 at the midway point of the third.
The teams traded goals before the final buzzer, after which Sheehan, which moved up to D-II from D-III, improved to 3-0 overall while the Indians fell to 1-2.
OPENING WITH A SPLIT
The loss to the Titans came on the heels of the Indians splitting their first two games on their home-away-from-home ice at the Sports Center of Shelton.
Prior to the opener, head coach Vic Vicenzi III said “I did have to do a lot of leg work to get us ice in Shelton,” whose efforts were rewarded when the Indians faced Division II opponent Amity Regional on February 10.
“I’m glad at least things are working out and it has been worth it,” said Vicenzi of the Shelton facility, which is also home ice to numerous teams in this season unlike any other, as is Northford.
Look at this way; it’s a good comparision to the ‘Bubble’ facilities which have become the new-normal in the COVID era.
Watertown-Pomperaug’s fast start came courtesy of a pair of a pair of seniors, as Ryan Magee took care of the offense and Owen Gallagher the defense in a 3-0 victory over Amity.
Gallagher was in complete control throughout in goal shutting out the Spartans in the SWC-SCC Division II match.
Magee was the picket fence buildedr for W-P scoring a natural hat trick with one in each period, closing out Amity with an empty-net goal in the final minute.
In a February 13 non-league game against Trumbull High School of the Fairfield County Conference, the Indians, after taking a 2-1 lead in the second period, were the victims of a late surge, as THS scored three times in the late second and third periods to skate off with a 4-2 win.
Magee again was the W-P offense, scoring both goals to give him five on the young season; his second gave the locals a short-lived lead.
However, Trumbull snapped a 2-2 deadlock with 2:50 remaining in regulation time, then put the game away with an empty net goal with 12 seconds remaining.
The opening games were two of the five schedule W-P games in Shelton’s two rinks; for a program looking to rebuild after missing the CIAC tournament last season for the first time in five years, the start is promising, with Magee’s energy and goal-scoring setting an early tone.