They’re In — Nighthawk Skaters Qualify For State Tourney

Newtown High School’s hockey team, by virtue of back-to-back wins in mid-February, ensured that it will play on once the regular season comes to an end. The Nighthawks earned their seventh and eighth victories of the season to earn a spot in the upcoming Division II state tournament, and also kept their outside shot at getting into the South-West Conference playoffs alive in the process. NHS is relying on some outside help to squeak into the four-team conference tourney, which will get under way on February 28.

Newtown edged Masuk of Monroe 4-3 on February 13, then downed Westhill of Stamford 5-3 on February 16. The Hawks then dropped a 2-1 overtime decision to New Milford in a makeup game the next night.

“Overall, the team’s pretty happy. The pressure’s off us,” Newtown Coach Paul Esposito said of his team locking up a spot in the state bracket.

Against Masuk, at Danbury Ice Arena, Newtown got two goals from Evan Isaacs, and net-finders off the sticks of Parker Rodbell and Chris Erikson. Rodbell and Matt Sabia set up Isaac’s second tally, which proved to be the difference-maker. Sabia had another assist, and Brendan Gregory and Zach Waller also had helpers. Goaltender Pat McLoughlin stopped 24 shots.

“A win’s a win,” said Esposito, adding that his team did not play its best game in the victory over Masuk. The coach added that the Nighthawks had significant improvements in the Westhill game, especially with cleaner breakouts, better forechecking, covering passing lanes, and blocking shots.

“It was good to see the team pick everything up and get us back on the right track,” Esposito said.

Backup goaltender Nick Chaloux, a freshman, got his first varsity start and made it a win with 19 saves. He got offensive support led by Sabia and Waller with two goals apiece.

“It was exciting to see him get that win for us to qualify us for states,” the coach said.

Isaacs also scored in the clinching win. Tyler Hanley played the role of playmaker with a trio of assists, and Connor Hanley, Isaacs, and Cooper McLean all had two assists. Brian Gregory also helped set up a goal.

In the New Milford game at Canterbury School, Rodbell knotted the score with an unassisted tally in the third, but NHS fell in the extra session.

Newtown improved to 9-9 overall and 3-4 in SWC conference play with a 5-3 win over Joel Barlow of Redding in Danbury on February 19. Dan Harrison, Rodbell, McLean, Tyler Hanley, and Isaacs all lit the lamp for the Hawks. Waller had two assists, and McLean, Connor Hanley, Tyler Hanley, Ryan Bepko, and Erikson all added assists. Chaloux made 18 stops between the pipes.

Newtown was scheduled to take on North Branford on Wednesday (after The Bee sports section went to press), and will close out the regular campaign against Notre Dame of Fairfield on Saturday, February 23.

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