Mountaineer skaters enjoying a sizzling season. Story by John Torsiello.
By, JOHN TORSIELLO
The Housatonic/Northwestern/Wamogo ice hockey team is in the midst of what head coach Dean Diamond calls “its best season ever.”
The Mountaineers, who play as an independent and a Division III team on the state level, posted a gaudy 10-2-2 mark in their first 14 games of the 2013-14 campaign. Housy beat Rocky Hill, 5-0, Friday night.
“I couldn’t be more pleased with the kids this year,” said Diamond. “I knew coming in we were going to be good but also somewhat young with only one senior on the roster. These kids have all played youth hockey together and know one another. They are into hockey and want to learn all aspects of how to play the game right.”
He added, “I’ll tell you how into hockey these kids are. We had school called off because of a snow storm this week and they were calling to ask if we could practice that night.”
Goalie Eric Chin, a junior, has been outstanding, allowing just 1.79 goals a game, making 279 saves in the squad’s first 13 games, and posting a pair of shutouts. Also solid have been defensemen, junior Liam Bamberry and senior James Heuschkel.
Top scorers have been sophomore Jason Diamond and Wes Reel, a junior, with eight goals each in the team’s first 13 contests, junior James Huften with seven goals, freshman Finn Bamberry with six goals, and junior Andre Sheppard with four goals. Two youngsters, Bamberry and Diamond, have infused the team with a new vitality.
Said Diamond, “It’s so nice to have young kids as your team’s building block. I can only imagine what these guys are going to be like when they are juniors and seniors.”
Housatonic played a powerful New Fairfield team to a 1-1 draw and Diamond said the game proved a point to him and his team.
“That game showed me we are where we belong, in the top six in Division III. We lost 5-0 to a very good Masuk team, which is the best team in Division III along with Newtown. For us to beat them we have to play a very strong game, get great goalkeeping, and sneak a goal in late in the game.”
Housy has another big test coming up against Hall this coming Friday at the Hotchkiss School rink, where the team plays its home games.
The other Berkshire League school fielding a hockey team, Shepaug (a cop-op with Nonnewaug and Litchfield), is also having a solid season and split its first 10 games of the season, although it suffered a couple of disappointing losses recently.
“We had two tough losses in a row,” said head coach Mike Gorra. “We lost to Joel Barlow at home on a night where we out-shot them, 42-28. We ran into a very hot goalie and didn't get the bounces we needed. Then we played a bigger, faster and more talented E.O. Smith team very tough and were right with them but lost, 4-3. That game proved to me that we have the potential to hang with anyone when we put our mind to it.”
Shepaug, now 5-9, is the midst of a brutal stretch of five games in eight days and was to play Bethel/Brookfield/Danbury on Saturday, Masuk on Monday and Watertown/Pomperaug this Wednesday.
Said Gorra, “We recently moved a junior from Litchfield, Nick Ganio, from forward to defense and it has helped in our neutral zone transitions. Junior captains Andrew Loya and Christian Stuart, both from Shepaug, have stepped up their two-way games and sparked the rest of the team. So has David Demao from Shepaug, who has brought up the intensity in play and earned a spot on the power play.”
On defense, junior Aleksey Warner and freshman Jake Perda, both form Nonnewaug, have been solid, and freshman goalie Will Slohm from Litchfield has been brilliant at times, making 40 saves against E.O. Smith to keep his team in the contest.
Said Gorra, “Our goal of eight to nine wins will require an unexpected win in the next two weeks.”
Loya leads the team with 15 goals, while Stuart had 12 and Ganio six, junior Will Kopley three goals and nine assists, and Demao three goals and five assists. Slohm had a 4.33 goals against average in the team’s first 13 games.
Both teams are looking forward to the second of the annual two-game Berkshire Cup.
Said Gorra, “We lost the first game, 2-0, although we outshot them, 24-12. To bring the Cup back we need to win the Feb. 24 contest at the Gunnery by three goals, a big task since it has been awhile since we have beaten them. This year will be our best chance after losing twice to Housatonic last year, once in overtime and once in the last three minutes.”