Many hockey players talk about how important a solid two-way game is to the success of their squad. Branford junior Scott Klouda took that to heart this season to help the Hornets return to the Division II State Tournament and then win their first round game.
After graduating a slew of senior leaders, Branford struggled early on, but fought through the rough patches to again reach the postseason and shock some people with their upset of South Windsor.
“Playing last year, we had older kids and we were more of the team to look at of winning the whole thing. This year, we lost a lot of seniors and it was tough thinking we’d even make the playoffs,” says Scott. “We made it to the quarterfinal, which was pretty surprising to everybody. We went in thinking that we could beat that team. When we played against better teams, we found a way to win. People didn’t think we’d make it as far as we did.”
Scott wasn’t always on the score sheet, but he did all the little things to help Branford secure its nine victories and Head Coach Adolph Brink appreciates his versatile skillset.
“Scott was probably our most complete player as far as playing a 200-foot game. He didn’t have the gaudy offensive numbers, but he was certainly outstanding on the defensive end. Being a center, he’s important to our team. He embraced the role of giving up offensive glory to focus on defensive play to help us be successful,” says Coach Brink. “Basically, when Scott was on his game, we’d win. The intangible things he brought to the team—winning battles in our own zone, time management, winning face-offs, and making the right decisions—it was crucial.”
Scott developed the ability to be a sound defensive player throughout his days in youth hockey when he lined up as a defenseman at the pee-wee level. Scott was then converted to a center after playing some defense in his sophomore season.
“Playing defense is different because you get more ice time. You’re not going into the corner and battling, but you’re also not as likely to score as much,” says Scott. “I liked playing forward better, but to play defense, you need good vision to move the puck.”
Having experience on the blue line allowed Scott to increase his minutes this season as he received time playing the point on the power play.
“This year on the power play, I got to play defense on the point. Playing defense in the past, I was more aware of what to do in that circumstance,” says Scott. “I was on the point to get it over to Zach Withington. Being able to move from the top, switch back and forth, I just had to move the puck precisely to him.”
Scott says he prefers playing forward more than defense for the Hornets. He enjoys being around the net, battling in the corners, and using his speed to his advantage.
“I like the whole scoring aspect of it. You’re more likely to score. Playing offense, being able to get into the corner or be in front of the net is more thrilling to me,” says Scott. “You do more skating on offense, so since I’m pretty fast out there, I’m able to use my speed to create space, so I have the ability to make plays with my vision and passing.”
With a pretty young team this season, Scott and the Hornets secured the No. 13 seed in the Division II State Tournament and, after beating 4th-seeded South Windsor, saw their season end with a 3-0 loss to No. 12 East Haven in the quarterfinals. Scott hopes that Branford can build on this year’s success and go further next season, when the Hornets will return a bunch of guys who’ll be a wiser.
“The first few games everybody was thinking, ‘How are we going to do good this year? We don’t have the strong senior class.’ But as the year went on, we all had to develop new roles as a team with kids playing new positions and it worked out well as the year went on,” says Scott. “We were able to beat some better teams that thought they’d blow us out. When we all worked together, we were pretty good.”
Scott is now getting ready to try to his hand at golf for the first time at Branford this spring. Scott has golfed with his dad for years and is aiming to improve his overall game on the links by joining the Hornets.
“This year, I decided I wanted to do another sport and I thought golf is one I’d do to continue to get better at,” says Scott. “Obviously, I want to improve. I’m probably not that good of a golfer, but I want to be able to get better and continue playing. Playing all parts of golf is pretty hard, but putting and chipping is something that is hard in the game and one area I want to improve on.”