HAMDEN >> While the Hamden girls hockey team entered this season with a young team that has only two seniors, coach Mike Callan was confident his team would have success with its experience, depth, talent and work ethic.
Through the team’s first 14 games, despite its tough schedule, the results have exceeded even Callan’s expectations.
After a season-opening 3-0 loss to Darien, the Green Dragons have put together a 13-game unbeaten streak for an 11-1-2 overall record.
“We are off to one of our better starts this season,” Callan said. “Everyone on the team is buying into our team concept. The girls are working extremely hard and it is paying off for them. We are having great practices and the girls are playing hard for each other.
“Our coaching staff has high expectations for our team and those expectations are being met. Everyone is contributing and there seems to be a different player stepping up each and every game. We are a young team, but a lot of our players have seen playing time. We are an experienced team and that has been an important factor for our success.”
Callan said the turning point for his team this season was competing at the “Hockey For Hope” girls hockey tournament in South Burlington, Vermont where the Green Dragons won the championship. It was in that tournament that Callan sensed his team could have a special season.
“I believe that the trip to Vermont with the chance to play out-of-state teams Mount Mansfield (Vermont) and South Burlington (Vermont) helped prepare our team for the season by giving us confidence and helping us to bond together as a team. Playing a preseason scrimmage against Massachusetts power Hingham High also helped prepare us and contributed to our development as a team.”
On Dec. 16, Hamden defeated Mount Mansfield 3-1 and then defeated South Burlington 5-1 on Dec. 17 for the tournament championship.
Callan said the team’s strength begins in goal with junior Gianna Spino and senior Nikole Baker. Both goalies alternate starts with Spino having a 1.40 goals-against average and Baker a 1.90 goals-against average. Spino has two shutouts and Baker has one.
Leading the defense is junior Mackenzie Sargolini and sophomore Claire Boncek. Freshman Libby Dolan has also been another key defenseman.
The team has balanced scoring with all three forward lines contributing. Junior Maggie Gould has 12 goals and five assists, junior Taylor Klesyk has nine goals and seven assists, sophomore Megan McKiernan has eight goals and seven assists and freshman Reilly Sargolini has seven goals and three assists.
“We have a lot of players with experience,” Mackenzie Sargolini said. “But I think our success in the Vermont tournament was a turning point for us. It gave us confidence and we’ve been getting better every game against every team we have played.”
Callan said another important factor for the team’s success is the strong leadership co-captains Kelsey Carignan, a forward, and Mackenzie Sargolini have provided throughout the season.
“I’m not really surprised by our success because honestly, we all worked very hard for it,” Carignan said. “Our experience, talent and the great connection we all have on and off the ice are other reasons for our success.”
Callan said he has put together a strong schedule this season with the goal of improving and getting back to the SCC Division I tournament final after finishing as runner-up to East Catholic/South Windsor/ Glastonbury last season (4-0 loss to the co-op in the final).
“The team is off to a great start,” Callan said. “But the players understand that we still have a long way to go and need to get better each and every game both individually and as a team.”
Callan’s assistant coaches who have contributed to the team’s success are Nik Bakos, Nicole Kosta and Amanda Delcervo.
And then there were two
East Haven, a CIAC Division II team, and Woodstock Academy, a Division III team, are the last two teams that remain unbeaten this season.
East Haven, led by its depth and high-scoring group of forwards, is 8-0. The wins include a victory over Glastonbury, a Division I team. The next big test for the ninth-ranked Easties will be against West Haven, a Division I team ranked No. 10, at DiLungo Rink in East Haven on Monday at 4:15 p.m.
Woodstock Academy is 9-0 with wins over Division II teams New Fairfield/Immaculate, E.O. Smith/Tolland and a pair of victories over Staples/Weston/Shelton. Woodstock Academy’s next big test is against
Suffield/Granby/Windsor Locks, a Division I team ranked No. 8, at Enfield Twin Rinks on Saturday at 4:10 p.m.