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Junior forward Will Fiore brought tremendous passion to the ice for the Indians and helped them enjoy a resurgent campaign this winter. (Photo courtesy of Will Fiore )
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Prior to this year, the last time the North Haven boys’ ice hockey team had won a game in the Division II State Tournament was in 2016. Heading into this year’s tournament, the Indians were missing two of their top goal scorers when they faced off against Trumbull in a first-round matchup. Head Coach Chris Avena turned to junior forward Will Fiore to help pick up some of the scoring slack, and Will responded by posting a goal and an assist to lead North Haven to a 3-0 victory.
“Will took a pass in the neutral zone, got by a couple defenders, fell to his knees, and, in that process, was able to still put the puck in front of the net for the eventual goal. For his second point, he gets the puck, battles the defenseman, and just shoves it towards the goalie and gets it in the net,” says Avena. “In that environment, it’s all we really needed. It’s a microcosm of what Will brings to the table day in and day out. He just goes.”
Will also stepped up for the Indians in a similar way they played rival North Branford earlier in the year. With North Haven down 2-0 after the first period, Will took on two defensemen and fell to his knees while battling along the boards. Will was able to retain the puck and pass it to teammate Jake Hines for a goal that gave the Indians a huge boost in an eventual 3-2 win.
“That game has always been a rivalry matchup and has always been such an electric game. I wanted to be the guy to make a big play,” Will says. “Something just clicked in my head, and I wasn’t going to lose that puck. Because it’s such a rivalry game, it made me hungrier and made me want to make that play more. To make that play and get the team going, that’s what made me keep that puck. I fought for it a lot more.”
Will started out as a baseball player before transitioning to hockey when he was eight. As he grew older, Will started to enjoy hockey more and more and decided to fully commit himself to the sport.
“I can’t sit still. I love the speed, the quickness. I love the atmosphere of the rink,” says Will. “Sophomore year, I really wanted to hone in on my skills and focus on hockey. Don’t get me wrong—I love baseball. But I didn’t get the same brotherhood as I do in hockey in the locker room. I love the speed of the game.”
Will’s love for hockey also grew from watching the Quinnipiac men’s ice hockey squad. Will always enjoyed watching Travis St. Denis, who was a senior during the 2015-’16 season. Denis was listed at 5 feet, 7 inches when he played for Quinnipiac. For Will, who stands at 5-foot-3, seeing St. Denis succeed with the Bobcats gave him confidence that he could have a future in the sport.
“My dad always said, ‘He’s not the biggest player on the ice, but he’s playing for Quinnipiac right now,’” Will says. “I’m in the same situation he is. I’m short, I play hockey, we both have the same love for the sport. Watching him play, he mimicked the same kind of player I was, that I wanted to be—gritty, fast, passionate.”
What Will might lack in size, he makes up for with his heart and hustle. Coach Avena says that Will is willing to do whatever it takes to help the Indians, and Will knows that the sacrifice is worth it as long as North Haven comes away with the win. North Haven finished the winter season with a record of 12-7-3, while advancing to its first conference final in team history. Will had eight goals with four assists on the year.
“It’s simple. If I make those plays and it’s all for the betterment of the team and we win, I did my job,” says Will. “If I make those gritty plays that some players aren’t willing to make and it helps in our favor, I’d take that. At the end of the day, we get the W.”
Will says the seniors on the team took him in like a brother when he joined the Indians, making him feel comfortable from the get-go. As he looks toward his senior season, Will wants to give North Haven’s underclassmen the same type of support that he’s received throughout his career.
“I want to leave the program knowing I did everything I could to help,” Will says. “I want the underclassmen to keep the same fire we had building this year. We want to finish our unfinished season next year. That’s what sparks us.”
Will believes that North Haven made a big statement with its State Tournament victory versus Trumbull. After helping the Indians turn the corner this year, Will feels confident that they have what it takes to make a run at the Division II state title next season.
“Knowing that most of the team is coming back and knowing the feeling we felt this year will fuel the fire next year,” Will says. “Coming out with a win is positive. The guys stepping up helps us realize that we can do a lot of damage. Not just because the media says so or mom and dad says so, but because we know it’s there.”
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