The New Fairfield-Immaculate boys hockey team is running out of tournaments to claim.
Exiting the state didn’t release the squad from the clutches of CIAC rules.
By winning a pair of games and advancing to the final of the Rhode Island-based Prout School Holiday Tournament, NFI eclipsed the 20 regular-season games allowed by the state and was unable to compete. Instead of facing Hamden in the last game, the Mustangs spent Friday on a bus heading home.
New coach Mike Bonelli — who took the job in October long after the schedule was set — said he received a note from the CIAC after the Mustangs’ 3-0 win over Portsmouth (R.I.) on Thursday that the game against the Green Dragons would be the 21st, and not allowed. NFI beat Barrington (RI) 5-4 in the opening round.
“They’re high school kids, they should be upset,” said Bonelli by phone as the team trekked home. “The parents invested time and effort to make the trip possible; if you look at the cost that’s 11 hotel rooms and meals. If we knew we wouldn’t be able to play we would have left a night sooner.”
Already ineligible from the Division I tournament due to squad numbers, NFI will dissolve following this season. Dropping a regular-season game against another squad would limit that school to 19 contests; teams are not allowed to add games to their schedules once the season starts.
“It’s not the CIAC’s fault,” Bonelli said. “They’re just following their guidelines; it’s just unfortunate.”
NFI — which has won three straight games to improve to 3-1-2 — will face Hamden in the regular-season finale for both teams on Feb. 27. Next up for the Mustangs is a home showdown with FCIAC squad New Canaan on Thursday.
“They’re a group of kids who have responded well,” Bonelli said. “I think we’ve conveyed to every person that they’re a valuable part of our program. They’ve bought into that and I think it’s been a great opportunity for kids to maybe reinvent themselves and feel on any given night they can be a part of our 23-man roster, and that’s been positive.”
The result allowed Barrington to face Hamden in the final. Barrington won 4-2.
“We just have to deal with the circumstances,” Bonelli said. “We’re certainly disappointed but we’ll play Hamden at the end of the year, just in a different place.”