Cromwell brothers, Harrison Ranger (left) and Kilian Ranger (right) are photobombed by Newington's Sam Davies. The three helped Newington co-op hockey win a conference title in March
Kilian and Harrison Ranger shared a championship moment on March 26 when the Newington co-op hockey won a CCC title.
The brothers, who are two of three Cromwell High School student-athletes on the co-op’s roster, each played pivotal roles for a team that won 11 of 13 games, which included a victory over Tri-Town in the Conference Championship.
“We lost the state semis, we lost in conference semis for three years straight, so it was really rewarding to push though and get the championship,” said Kilian, who is two years older than Harrison, “We were more known as a regular season team because we had a great record last year and then we got bounced out of both the conference and state tourneys, so it was really good to prove that we could win it.”
The older Ranger (Kilian) led the team in goals (15) and scoring (23 points), while the younger Ranger (Harrison) finished second on the team in assists (9) and scored 12 points overall.
Harrison said it’s been great playing with and learning from his older brother, “Since we lived together our whole life, we’ve learned hockey the same way. We have chemistry and we know where each other is going to be on the ice because we have a similar playing style.”
The Ranger family moved to Cromwell from Raleigh, North Carolina four years ago, bringing an abundance of hockey talent with them.
Older brother, Ethan Ranger, starred for two seasons with the co-op, earning all-state honors following the 2018-2019 season. The two younger siblings have followed in the footsteps of Ethan and their father, Michael, who played in Canada
“We played hockey in North Carolina for our whole childhood and when we moved here we were introduced to high school hockey because there is no high school hockey in North Carolina,” stated Kilian, who played junior and club hockey growing up, “High school hockey is very popular in Connecticut and we were attracted to it because the head coach on the team at Newington, David Harackiewicz, mentioned to us about the co-op.”
Since arriving in the Nutmeg State, the Ranger family has elevated the co-op program, which includes players from Newington, Cromwell, Berlin, Manchester, and Canton.
The team was nearly flawless this season, going 9-0-1 through 10 regular season games before falling to Wethersfield (2-0) in the regular season finale.
But as fate would have it, the longtime rivals were pitted against each other in the semifinals of the CCC tourney.
“The first time we played them it was a tight game and the two goals were kind of flukes,” recalled Kilian, “I felt good that we could get redemption against them. We knew we could play with them, they were a good team but we thought we were good too.”
The rematch turned out to be one for the ages, and possibly the longest and greatest high school hockey game in the state’s history, lasting five overtimes and ending shortly before midnight on March 24.
Newington’s Sam Davies ended the game on a goal with just over three minutes left in the fifth overtime, securing a 3-2 victory and sending the co-op team to the conference championship game.
“We didn’t want our last lost to be to Wethersfield. We always play tight games against them,” said Kilian, who was up until three in the morning following the win, “We didn’t want to end it that way, especially against Wethersfield.”
Harrison recalled the multiple times between action during the overtime periods, “We would just be in the locker room and we’d talk about their weaknesses and what we needed to work on. We tried to hype each other up so we wouldn’t get too down or too tired. We wanted to make sure we were on-point no matter how long it went on.”
The brothers were able to start and finish the marathon game thanks in large part to the work they put into the offseason. Each was coming off an injury-riddled 2019-2020 season. Kilian dealt with a broken hip and Harrison a broken leg.
During a quarantine-filled offseason, the two hit the weight room to get bigger, stronger, faster, and more durable.
“Hockey is a pretty physical game, and also from a speed aspect you need to develop your legs because if you don’t have strong legs you won’t be able to skate hard or skate fast in general. We trained our upper bodies as well,” said Kilian, who mentored his younger brother in the weight room, “In the fall we where in the gym six days a week and I think that helped with his confidence. Freshman year he was a little on the smaller side which caused him to break his leg towards the end of the season. He got bigger and stronger, which helped his confidence.”
Thanks to the added muscle and year under his belt, Harrison’s confidence grew in year-two, “I think I got smarter and more confident in making better passes and plays. I got older and stronger. I was willing to carry the puck when I got my chance and to shoot more and make the extra play.”
The same night that Newington eliminated Wethersfield, conference #1 seed Hall/Southington was upset by Tri-Town, setting up a title match with the hockey talents from Ellington/Somers/East Windsor.
The championship game proved to be a mismatch as Newington jumped to a 2-0 lead after the first period and never looked back, shutting out Tri-Town 5-0.
Kilian and Sam Hedlund each scored two goals and dished out two assists, while Joey Petronio netting a goal as well.
Goalie Andrew Fogarty, who started and finished all 13 games this season, stopped every shot he faced to register his third shutout of the year.
The conference championship win wrapped up a bizarre shortened season without a state tournament.
The brothers, who schooled virtually during the season to avoid contact tracing, were just happy to have a season.
“I just took it day by day because I knew that we might not have a season,” said Kilian, “I was grateful that the season wasn’t cancelled. Even though we didn’t have a state tournament, we still got to get a conference championship.”
Kilian and five other senior will be graduating, leaving a sizeable void next season.
Harrison will lead a group coming back next season, which will include Braeden Humphrey, Evan Howard, Joshua Grimm, Jeremy Wagner, and Cromwell’s Thomas Quirk.
“It still uncertain how well we will do next season because we are losing a lot of seniors and firepower, but I still think we will be able to compete,” said Harrison, who was glad to help his brother and the departing senior win a championship this winter, “I knew we could win a championship this season if we really played our game. Once we won it was refreshing because we worked all season for this. All that worked paid off.”
Sports Editor for the Rare Reminder, Glastonbury Citizen, and Rivereast News Bulletin