DANBURY — The mantra heading into the Division III state tournament opener, at Danbury Ice Arena on March 10, was that the Nighthawks needed to come out strongly and avoid being flat to bounce back from a tough overtime loss in the conference championship only a few nights earlier.
“The message was ‘we need to have energy. The first 15 minutes is the most important,” Newtown Coach Paul Esposito said.
Mission accomplished. By the time the first period ended, Newtown was in complete control — leading 3-0 on the strength of a 23-shots on goal barrage — en route to a 5-1 triumph over Joel Barlow of Redding.
The Nighthawks got two goals from Dan Harrison, and one each off the sticks of Dominic Cartelli, Connor Hanley, and Cooper McLean to advance into the quarterfinal round.
Newtown, the No. 2 seed in the state bracket, finished the game with a 38-15 shots on goal advantage over No. 15 Barlow, a team it beat twice in the regular season, but only by scores of 3-2 and 5-3.
The third time was a whole lot easier than the first two as Newtown dominated puck control and applied pressure in the offensive zone throughout most of the first two periods. Harrison assisted Cartelli to get the ball rolling, and Harrison and Hanley followed with unassisted net-finders in the opening stanza.
McLean jammed home a rebound, assisted by Brian Gregory and Hanley, to make it 4-0 in the second period. Hayden Savoia used his speed to get deep into the Barlow zone and centered the puck to Harrison for a one-timer tap-in to make it 5-0 in the third. Sean Ferris also logged an assist on the goal.
Barlow denied Newtown goaltender Patrick McLoughlin (14 saves) the shutout with a power play tally midway through the third.
Esposito was pleased to see his team maintain its high level of play and fast pace play coming off a 2-1 OT loss to New Fairfield-Immaculate in a back-and-forth Southern Connecticut/ South-West Conference title game on March 7.
Newtown’s win over Barlow sets up a matchup with the winner of No. 7 Hall-Southington and No. 10 Woodstock on Thursday, March 13 (check casciac.org for tournament updates, including game time and location information).