Peewee A1 State Champions
STORRS - HYHA's Peewee A1 team capped off a season to remember this weekend, winning the 2022-23 CHC State Championship with a thrilling 2-1 come from behind victory. The win, in front of a packed crowd of HYHA families that made the long trek to the Mark Edward Freitas Ice Forum at UCONN, solidifies a second straight year that a HYHA team will bring a championship back to Hamden.
“The crowd was crazy. That's the loudest game I’ve heard in a long time. I think it rattled them (Putnam) a little bit”. said Coach Desmond Bohan. The crowd coach Bohan was referring to was overwhelmingly Hamden, many families without kids on the team who came just for support. “Our kids really fed off the energy. It was great” added Coach Matthew Lipnickas.
In the championship game Hamden faced off against tournament host Putnam, a team they’d lost to in the opening game 3-2. “In a tournament like this you almost want to start with some adversity. Especially if you have veteran leadership in the locker room, which we do.” said Coach Justin Nolan. “We came away knowing it was a game we could win, which helped us tonight.” In the game, Putnam jumped out to an early lead in the 1st, but after the early goal the Hamden defense shut them down. “Our defense played lights out & the whole team really decided it was going to be defense first to win. And of course Ralphie”. Continued Nolan.
Ralphie is goalie Raffaele Iuliano who, after winning a state championship last year, put on another performance for the books in a 30 save effort. In two state championship games Iuliano has one goal against. “I’m not a math guy but that has to be a good save percentage.” added Coach Lipnickas.
Iuliano is part of a pair of goalies, the other being Brendan Silva, that led Hamden throughout the year. “They both played unbelievable. We honestly don’t get here without both of them.” said Coach James Carney. Iuliano is also part of a handful of players & coaches on the team that celebrated back to back state championships. “It helps to have been in the situation before. And now they all get to say it.” said Coach Bohan.
In addition to players with championships on their resumes, the Peewee A1s were bolstered by a group of second year Peewees. “They helped lead the team this year, on and off the ice.” said Coach Carney. Those second year players formed part of the core of veteran leadership Coach Nolan referred to. Defensive pair Connor Carney & Dylan Czaplicki were two such players, both of whom logged big minutes in the championship run. Another was Esther Schonberger, who scored both goals for the Dragons in the championship game. “Esther has had big goals for us all year long. She came through big for us tonight. ” said Coach Nolan.
Those goals ended up being the difference in the championship game. The second of which was a late powerplay goal that gave Hamden the lead they never lost. From there on it was a full team defense combined with a relentless forecheck to put Putnam away. “This team is such a great group of kids, they earned it. It’s been a fun year.” said Coach Nolan
For the Peewee A1s that fun year ended with a state championship. “We’re going to have to start calling Nolan (Coach Justin Nolan) Scotty Bowman around the rink.” added an anonymous HYHA fan in attendance.
HYHA’s 2-23 State Champions:
Coaching & Management Staff