NEW HAVEN – The No. 3 Tri-Town and No. 5 Eastern CT Eagles boys hockey teams made their first championship appearance on Saturday in the CIAC Division III final and the Eastern CT Eagles made the most of their first chance for a title, scoring the game’s first three goals and cruising to victory.
Kevin Close had a hat trick and Rylin Fowler had 26 saves to lead the No. 5 Eastern CT Eagles to a 7-3 win over No. 3 Tri-Town at Ingalls Rink for the program’s first title.
“I knew the first week of the season we had something special going on this season,” Eastern CT Eagles coach randy Craig said. “We’re typically a defensive team but I saw early on we had a lot of speed and a lot of players who could score and make us an offensive team.
“To win our first title, it’s unbelievable, so unbelievable. The difference in this team than ones in the past is there is no panic and no sweat. Everyone works hard and plays hard and everyone contributes. Kevin Close is our senior captain and he does it all for us. He just goes out there and takes charge.”
The Eastern CT Eagles dominated most of the first period and outshot Tri-Town 13-6.
Tri-Town goalie Peyton Emrick made saves on Eastern CT Eagles’ first six shots. But a Quenten Dean wrist shot in front of the right post slid into the left corner of the net to give the Eastern CT Eagles a 1-0 lead at 3:53 of the first period.
The Eastern CT Eagles continued to pressure Emrick and Will Cannella’s low riser got by Emrick for a 2-0 lead at 9:03. Off the ensuing face off Evan Tower made it 3-0 at 10:15.
With the period winding down and Eastern CT Eagles Ryan Huta serving a holding penalty, Mike Shuman got a goal back for Tri-Town. His shot from about 15 feet out cut the Eastern CT Eagles lead to 3-1 with 9 seconds left in the period.
Tri-Town became more aggressive in the second period and outshot the Eastern CT Eagles 15-5. But Eastern CT Eagles goalie Rylin Fowler limited the impact with 14 saves to keep his team in control.
The Eastern CT Eagles struck first in the second period with Close scoring what ended up being an easy goal for a 4-1 lead. Close was on a breakaway down center ice and Emrick came out of the net stop Close. As he came out he fell onto the ice, giving Close a wide open net for the goal at 3:42.
Tri-Town would add a second goal off another power-play opportunity with Devyn Jordan serving a tripping penalty. Andrew Gaines scored off a rebound for the power-play goal, cutting the Eastern CT Eagles lead to 4-2 at 10:47.
The Eastern CT Eagles continued to give itself chances to score and Kyle Jacobson came through with a goal at the bottom of the right circle. He went top shelf, sending the puck into the upper right corner for a 5-2 lead at 11:58.
In the third period, Close added goals at 5:37 and at 8:42 to get his hat trick and make it 7-2.
“Coming off the Staples game (8-6 win in the semifinals), we had a lot of confidence and momentum,” Close said. “We knew our team would be energized for this game and we would come out scoring goals.
“Getting a 3-0 lead felt good, but we know they’re a good team and could come back. We stayed focused and kept taking our shots to add to the lead. Winning this title feels great and it’s unbelieveable. It’s unbelievable for our whole team.”
Alex Kniseley added a power-play goal for Tri-Town at 12:54 for the 7-3 final.
Emrick ended up with 15 saves.
Eastern CT Eagles 7, Tri-Town 3
(at New Haven)
Eastern CTEagles 3 2 2 – 7
Tri-Town 1 1 1 – 3
First period: ECT Quenten Dean (Ryan Huta, Kayle Marino) 3:53; ECT-Will Cannella (Kyle Jacobson) 9:03; ECT-Evan Tower (Devyn Jordan) 10:15; TT-Mike Shuman (Connor Roberts, Andrew Gaines) 14:51; Second period: ECT-Kevin Close (unassisted) 3:42; TT-Andrew Gaines (Zach Roy) 10:47; ECT Kyle Jacobson (Kevin Close, Quenten Dean) 11:58; Third period: ECT-kevin Close (Ryan Huta) 5:37; ECT-Kevin Close (unassisted) 8:42; TT-Alex Kniseley (Ben Kingsbury) 12:54. Shotson Goal: ECT 24; TT 29; Saves: ECT Rylin Fowler 26; TT Peyton Emrick 15; Zach Vargo 2; Records: ECT 18-3-3; TT 15-8-1.