The Southern CT Youth Hockey Stars Squirt A squad defeated Avon, 3-2, to win the CT Hockey Conference Squirt Tier III championship at the Rinks at Shelton on Monday night.
Southern Stars skaters include: Kevin Kelly of Stratford, Aaron Martino of Stratford, Justin LaSella of Milford, Evan White of Milford, Scott Wright of Milford, Cody White of Orange, Jason Csejka of Orange, Franklin Berry of Seymour and Brandon Mercede of Oxford.
They are led by assistant coach Troy Early and head coach Peter Capone, a former high school standout at East Haven and currently an assistant coach of the Branford High School varsity hockey team.
After a scoreless first period that promised a defensive battle between two well-matched squads, Southern drew first blood early in period two on a pitch-perfect pass from center Capone to Csejka.
After a volley of goals, the teams held a 2-2 tie well into period three.
With less than two minutes left in regulation, an overtime period seemed likely until Avon was called for a late penalty after avoiding the box for most of the contest.
Southern lined center Bunton up on defense and, after a valiant battle on the boards, Southern managed to pass back to Bunton, who fired the winning puck into the net with 1:11 on the clock.
Avon managed to force the puck into the Stars’ zone, but couldn’t penetrate the crease as the final seconds ticked off.
The Stars advance to represent the state at the USA Hockey Northeast Sectional Tournament in Burlington, VT. on March 16.
The Stars play in the CT Tier III American Division (11 teams) and finished their six-month regular season with an overall record of 35-8-5 and a conference record of 14-2-4.
This placed them second in regular-season play to Northwestern of New Milford, besting the Stars by only one game.
Southern CT Youth Hockey Association, a member organization of the Connecticut Hockey Conference, the state affiliate of USA Hockey, saw the Stars sweep the CHC Squirt Tier III field, winning five games in three days to win a berth in the final.
The Stars swept their Round I opponents, disposing of Greenwich on Thursday in their tightest contest at 2-1.
They went on to out-match the Darien squad on Saturday morning, with a 7-1 decision seeing six Stars skaters score, then escaping an always high-stakes challenge from local rival Hamden, 3-2 on Saturday night.
Among eight teams to survive to the quarterfinals, the Stars were back on the ice at 9:30 a.m. on Sunday to post a hard-won 3-1 victory over Stamford.
They capped off the weekend by meeting Hamden again in the semifinal game, winning their fourth contest in less than two days by a convincing 6-3 margin and posting a 5-0 tournament record.
Avon earned its berth with a 3-2 decision over Southeastern.
The Southern Stars skate out of the Milford Ice Pavilion on Bic Drive in Milford, fondly known among state hockey buffs as the House that Marty built, a tip of the puck to Marty Roos, owner of MIP and the best high school hockey coaching record in Connecticut state history.
The Stars are a CHC/USA Hockey organization, sponsoring travel hockey squads at all CHC levels, Mite through Midget Major.