DANBURY — Newtown High School’s hockey team members hope to get some extra ice time in March with runs deep in the conference and state playoffs. For now, they’re getting more shots, saves, and hits thanks to overtime games in the regular season.
The Nighthawks played in their fifth overtime battle of the campaign — a tilt that ended in a scoreless deadlock with host New Fairfield-Immaculate of Danbury — at Danbury Ice Arena on February 8. Newtown is 2-0-3 in OT battles.
The three 15-minute periods as well as eight minutes of overtime weren’t enough to find a goal-scorer in this most recent tight contest. Newtown goaltender Patrick McLoughlin kicked away 29 shots and, with the help of strong defense, has held opponents scoreless four times this winter.
Newtown improved to 9-2-3 overall, and 5-0-1 against Southern Connecticut/South-West Conference Division III foes. The New Fairfield-Immaculate team stands at 8-3-2 overall (3-1-1 in conference play). The Nighthawks are the only unbeaten team in the conference’s third tier, but Newtown Coach Paul Esposito thought his team had a great chance to put yet another one in the win column.
“We had a really difficult time getting quality shots — putting pucks on the net,” Esposito said after his team mustered just 21 shots on net in the New Fairfield-Immaculate contest.
Experiencing these tight games — the handful of OT battles, as well as a couple of one-goal wins over Masuk of Monroe and Joel Barlow of Redding in regulation — stands to pay dividends for the Nighthawk skaters when they face pressure situations, and potentially very close contests, in the postseason.
“That’s what you’re going to expect in the playoffs,” Esposito said.
McLoughlin kept Newtown from suffering a rare loss by turning away some late-game shots thrown his way by the New Fairfield-Immaculate skaters. He stopped a solid chance with just 2:14 left in OT, then another with only four seconds to play to preserve the tie.
“He played his heart out tonight and he kept us in the game,” Esposito said.