Earlier this year, it was announced that North Branford hockey would join the other schools in the Southern Connecticut Conference and Coach Ralph Shaw and the T-Birds are looking forward to the competition.
“The players are excited to be part of the SCC this season and would like to play for the league title, but more importantly, qualifying for the state tournament is the biggest goal we have this year,” said Shaw, who is assisted by Ryan Connelly and Vin DiGioia. “We need to be focused and play one period at a time.”
North Branford aims to carry over the momentum from last year’s 11-8-1 season that saw the T-Birds finish in the state semifinals where they lost to Branford 5-3. Shaw is counting on senior captains Dylan Podbielski (forward) and Kyle Saroka (goalkeeper), along with assistant captains Nik Castaldi (defense) and Kris Marra (defense), to lead the team.
“Dylan is the motor of the team – his leadership on the ice and in the locker room will be key for the T-Birds’ success. Kyle is an integral piece of the puzzle as his play in net will be vital for the team to obtain their goals this year,” said Shaw. “Nik will anchor the blueliners this year; his experience and leadership will play a key role in the T-Birds’ success. Kris’s size will be a factor for the team this year. He has the strength and experience to aid the team on defense.”
With such talent returning defensively, it’s no wonder Shaw says “defense will be a strength for the T-Birds this season.” In addition, North Branford returns offensive contributors as well with Shaw noting sophomore Alec Martone as “a speedy forward that is not afraid to mix it up in the corners and has the ability
North Branford started the season on a positive note with a 4-1 won over Milford Coop on Dec. 12. Podbielski had two goals and an assist. Martone and Mark Russo each tallied a goal.
“It’s always nice to start the season with a win,” said Shaw. “Overall, I thought we played well. We need to be a little more consistent, but that will come.”
On Dec. 15, North Branford dropped a close contest to Hand 4-3. After a scoreless first quarter, the Tigers took a 3-1 edge after the second period. North Branford pushed back in the third with two goals to Hand's one, but the Tigers' held onto the one-goal advantage for the win.
North Branford goals were scored by Martone, Nick Taylor and Jordan Glenn, who also had an assist.
"I thought we played a good game overall," said Shaw. "We lost focus a few times and Hand capitalized on our mistakes, but I was happy to see our team battle back, we fought hard and I am proud of that."
North Branford won its first SCC contest with a big 11-4 win over Lyman Hall/ Haddam-Killingworth on Dec. 19 with Podbielski scoring five of the T-Birds' 11 goals. The T-Birds led 3-1 after the first period and 6-3 after the second.
"This was a much closer game than the score indicates," said Shaw. "I thought we controlled the flow of the game but Lyman Hall/HK did not give up. They kept coming at us at one point in the third it was 6-4. I give Coach Belcher and his team a lot of credit for their determination."
North Branford 2012-13 Varsity Boys Ice Hockey Schedule
DateOpponentH/A-FacilityTime/Result Wed., 12/12 Milford Coop Home - Northford Ice Pavilion
[Directions] W 4-1 Sat., 12/15 Daniel Hand Away - Northford Ice Pavilion
[Directions] L 4-3 Wed., 12/19 Lyman Hall/H-K Home - Northford Ice Pavilion
[Directions] 8:00 p.m. Sat., 12/22 East Catholic Home - Northford Ice Pavilion
[Directions] 7:00 p.m. Fri., 12/28 NFA-St. Bernard-Bacon Away - Norwich Ice Rink
[Directions] 3:00 p.m. Wed., 1/2 Sheehan Away - Choate Rosemary Hall
[Directions] 8:30 p.m. Sat., 1/5 Fairfield Warde/Ludlowe Home - Northford Ice Pavilion
[Directions] 4:45 p.m. Wed., 1/9 Trumbull Away - Shelton Rinks
[Directions] 7:30 p.m. Wed., 1/16 Daniel Hand Home - Northford Ice Pavilion
[Directions] 8:30 p.m. Sat., 1/19 Suffield-Granby-Windsor Locks Home - Northford Ice Pavilion
[Directions] 4:45 p.m. Wed., 1/23 Tri-Town Home - Northford Ice Pavilion
[Directions] 4:00 p.m. Fri., 1/25 Hall-Southington Home - Northford Ice Pavilion
[Directions] 8:30 p.m. Wed., 1/30 Branford Home - Northford Ice Pavilion
[Directions] 8:30 p.m. Sat., 2/2 Newington-Berlin-Manchester Away - Newington Ice Arena - 300 Alumni Rd. in Newington
[Directions] 8:30 p.m. Wed., 2/6 New Milford Away - Canterbury School
[Directions] 8:00 p.m. Sat., 2/9 Milford Coop Away - Milford Ice Pavilion
[Directions] 1:00 p.m. Tue., 2/12 Guilford Away - East Haven Ice Rink
[Directions] 7:30 p.m. Sat., 2/16 Suffield-Granby-Windsor Locks Away - Enfield Twin Rinks
[Directions] 4:00 p.m. Wed., 2/20 Newtown Home - Northford Ice Pavilion
[Directions] 6:00 p.m. Sat., 2/23 Amity Away - Bennett Rink - West Haven
[Directions] 3:30 p.m. Wed., 2/27 SCC Tournament Away