NEWINGTON - Prior to Wednesday nightâ€™s game against Hall-Southington, Newington-Berlin boys ice hockey head coach Dave Harackiewicz told his players they were in the midst of a three-game series.
Of course, it wasnâ€™t an actual series, as the Indians are still winding down their regular season, but given how often they have seen the Warrior-Knights of late, it sure feels like more than just one game to claim bragging rights in this brewing crosstown rivalry.
Wednesday night was the second installment of this soon-to-be trilogy, with Hall-Southington claiming chapter two with a 4-1 victory, avenging a 4-2 loss to Newington-Berlin just a week ago. Now, with just one week left in the regular season, both teamsâ€™ conference tournament matchups are set for next weekâ€™s semifinals, and what do you know, these two teams will be going at it once again next Thursday night.
â€śItâ€™s developing into a good rivalry,â€ť Harackiewicz said. â€śWeâ€™ve had some really good games with them in the past year. [Hall-Southington] coach Brian [Cannon] runs a good program, so we always know itâ€™s going to be a battle.â€ť
Wednesday saw plenty of hard hits and aggressive chirping back and forth throughout the night, as both teams are getting familiar with each other as high school opponents, although most already know each other from their earlier hockey days.
â€śWith all of us being so close together, we played with each other a lot in youth,â€ť said Hall-Southingtonâ€™s Sean Roach, who netted two goals in Wednesdayâ€™s win. â€śBut once you step on the ice, youâ€™re just out there battling. Those tendencies you know from youth, you keep that in mind, but youâ€™re really just trying to out-work them.â€ť
Sometimes, the players are also trying to out-chirp each other. After all, beating a rival is never enough. It helps to let the other team know about it too.
â€śItâ€™s a rivalry,â€ť Roach said. â€śIt was a rivalry when my brother was playing, itâ€™s a rivalry now and it will be one when weâ€™re all gone. Going into the game, coach told us itâ€™s a rivalry and we have to hit and we have to battle. They were going to do the same. So you just have to go out there and lay the body sometimes, chirp a little bit and get in their head.â€ť
All of the ingredients for a rivalry recipe are there for these two teams. The teams are based close by, both have become familiar with each other after two games in two weeks (and another next week), and both are near the top of the division. The Indians came into Wednesday night ranked first in Division III, with Hall-Southington close behind at No. 3 overall.
â€śItâ€™s a big rivalry and thereâ€™s been some talking on the ice,â€ť Newington-Berlinâ€™s Sam Hedlund said. â€śThese are two teams at the top of Division III and itâ€™s just a good rivalry.â€ť
Perhaps recency bias plays a part, but when these two teams talk about each other, they both consider the other the type of foe that is unparalleled with the rest of their schedule. The crowd atmosphere, which was filled on both ends of the bleachers with both student sections certainly reflected that, as did the players and coachesâ€™ sentiments after the game was over.
â€śIn my opinion, this is as a big a rival as we have,â€ť Cannon said. â€śThese guys are a really tough rival. Theyâ€™re right across town and itâ€™s always a competitive game. I said to the ref before the game that this is anybodyâ€™s game. It could go to overtime, it could be a blowout, you just never know with these two teams.â€ť
Cannon and Harackiewicz had their players ready for what felt like a three-game series, but in reality, there could be a fourth installment on its way. Chapter three will unfold next week, and once the Division III state tournament starts, there could be a chance for part four, which would all take place in the span of one month.
â€śWeâ€™re both right in the top four, and if we both get to [Yaleâ€™s] Ingalls Rink, we might see them a fourth time,â€ť Harackiewicz said. â€śThat would be pretty interesting.â€ť
Ryan Chichester can be reached at (860) 801-5094 or email@example.com