The West Hartford Wolves Bantam A team headed into the tier three Connecticut State Championship tournament in Northford ranked fifth out of the 12 teams involved.
The Wolves managed to fight their way through the round robin round with come-from-behind victories over both Hamden (5-3) and South Windsor (6-5) and a 4-0 defeat of West Haven.
West Hartford then faced off against the Stamford Sharks in sudden-death quarterfinal play and, despite jumping out to a 2-0 lead, the teams headed into the third period knotted at three. However, with 5 minutes left, defensemen Owen Miller threw a seeing-eye shot on goal from the point that found the back of the net and the Wolves survived to move on with a 4-3 victory.
In the semifinals, the Wolves squared off against a very speedy and talented Wallingford team. The tight contest was scoreless through the first period until a fortuitous bounce wound up in the Wallingford net to put the Wolves up 1-0. After successfully defending two 5-on-3 penalty kills, the Wolves netted a second goal from a blue line slap shot from Wolf defender Charles Croce.
Some tough action ensued including a hard hit by Jack Hodgson on a Wallingford defender, which jarred Hodgson’s helmet so harshly that he to lost his two front teeth. Wolves’ goaltender Aeden Mallett stopped a penalty shot with 10 minutes left, leading the Wolves to a 2-0 win and berth in the finals.
The gritty Wolves headed into the State Final against Putnam, a team which had bested them just a few weeks prior. In the first period, forward Nolan Trent tipped in a pass from center Emory Sirman to give the Wolves a 1-0 lead. West Hartford kept their foot on the gas with goals from winger Teddy Braiewa and center Aiden Emery and skated to a 3-0 championship victory.
While three of their four final games were shutouts by standout goalie Aeden Mallett, the Wolves committed to stingy defensive play as a team. Hodgson, Shane Bradley and Luke Shaffer all suffered injuries which forced them to miss games, yet the Wolves still powered through on their six game run.
Their potent offense throughout the tournament was spread amongst the players with point contributions from the majority of the team. Attention to detail and shrinking their spheres were themes throughout.
The coaching staff of Russ Trent, Kathleen Wiggenhauser, Jason Emery and Kevin Miller said they couldn’t have been prouder of the boys for their perseverance, effort, teamwork, and high level of competitive play.
For Coach Miller, his son Owen and a handful of boys that have been playing together since the age of five, the state title makes their third consecutive earned for the West Hartford program. The Wolves now head to the USA Hockey Regional Tournament in Massachusetts during the weekend of March 13th. The regional will, without doubt, serve as a capstone event to be savored, as for many it will mark the end to a wonderful and happy career of youth hockey and the turn of the page to high school.
The 2019-2020 WHYHA Connecticut Tier III Bantam Champion Wolves are: Shane Bradley (F), Teddy Braiewa (F), Charles Croce (D), Aiden Emery (F), Ben Gerken (F/D), Jack Hodgson (F/D), Aeden Mallet (G), Ben Margolis (D), Gavin McGowan*(D), Owen Miller (F/D), Griffin O’Shaughnessy (F), Luke Shaffer (D), Emory Sirman (F), Nolan Trent (F), Tyler West (D), Graham Wiggenhauser (F)