Despite 75% of the team’s roster being underclassmen, Glastonbury High School ice hockey made the state tournament after a strong finish to the regular season.
The Guardians blanked South Windsor, 2-0, in the regular season finale on Feb. 25 to wrap up a seven-win campaign.
Head coach Ken Barse called the win over the Bobcats of South Windsor the team’s most complete performance of the season.
“I saw a 45-minute effort,” recalled Barse, praising the efforts of goalie Patrick Sullivan and standout defensemen Drew Hazard and Sean Huempfner.
Sullivan made 22 saves, registering his second shutout of the season despite playing with a broken thumb for the last dozen games of the regular season.
Barse said Sullivan, a sophomore who has started every game the last two years, has become the foundation of the team.
Ben Howey and Jack Christina provided the offense in the team’s final win, each finding the back of the net.
The Guardians—who entered the state tourney as the No. 15-seed––had their season come to a close in the first round of the Division II tournament, falling to 2nd seed Woodstock on March 7.
It was the final game for Hazard, Howey, and Sean Sullivan—the team’s three seniors.
Barse said the seniors had to take on more responsibility this year because of how young the rest of the roster was.
Hazard was named team’s Hobey Baker Award winner—given to the team’s most outstanding player. Barse called Hazard one of the smartest players he’s ever coached.
Howey was in his first year playing with the Guardians, previously playing club hockey before finishing out his high school hockey career at GHS, and Barse said that he provided a missing element this winter.
“Ben brought that edge to the hockey team that we have been missing for years. He’s always on the edge of a penalty, but his heart and energy is unquestionable,” added Barse. “He’s an electrifying player that sparked a lot of fire.”
Because of the lack of experience, Barse was forced to play several young players this winter.
Many of his players, including starters, were learning on the fly and had to suffer through several setbacks during games.
“I look down the bench and I see how young these guys are. But now they are so battle tested,” added Barse. “They have been put in situations that most freshmen and sophomores don’t get put into. It is very promising for the next couple of years.”
Along with many positive moments, like the win over South Windsor and a tie with powerhouse Simsbury, the team suffered some heartbreaking losses, most notably a pair of one-goal losses to Farmington and Newington in February.
In the loss to Newington, the Nor’easters scored two late goals, including a controversial game-winner in the closing seconds to win 5-4
Barse called the last-second loss the most disappointing in his 27 years on the bench.
He added that those are the types of growing pains that a young roster has to endure, saying the losses are “a sign of a young hockey team.”
The cupboard should be full next season with 18 of 21 players returning.
Leading point scorer Michael Rodriguez will return to lead the offensive, while Huempfner, who Barse called a “rock” and a “warrior”, will head the defense.
Ben Jean, who Barse described as “gritty” and “dependable”, is also returning along with Liam Resto, who starred as a freshman before breaking his collarbone in the Newington game.
“Right now we’re kids without beards and we’re playing kids with beards,” stated Barse. “I’m hoping two years from now I’ll see some full beards on some of our kids.”
Sports Editor for the Rare Reminder, Glastonbury Citizen, and Rivereast News Bulletin