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The Guilford boys’ ice hockey squad has won some games in recent weeks and is just five points away from earning a spot in the Division II State Tournament. Pictured from the Indians are freshman Shane Considine, senior EJ Vickerman, and senior captain Jack Dacey. (File photo by Kelley Fryer/The Courier | Buy This Photo)
Senior Tyler Considine and the Indians are gearing up for the home stretch of their regular-season schedule with six more games on the slate. (File photo by Kelley Fryer/The Courier | Buy This Photo)
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The Guilford boys’ ice hockey team is no stranger to postseason play. After all, the Indians have advanced to the championship game of the Division II State Tournament in two of the past three seasons, winning the title in 2017.
Fast forward to 2020 and Guilford finds itself in the mix to secure another postseason berth this winter. After losing four of their first five games to open the year, the Indians started to turn things around by notching four wins and a tie in their next seven contests.
Guilford took defeats against West Haven and Cheshire in last week’s matchups. With their overall record of 5-8-1, the Indians are five points away from making states. Head Coach Ralph Russo’s club needs two wins and a tie in its last six regular-season games to guarantee itself a place in the Division II State Tournament.
“We’ve had some bright spots. We’re very young, but we have had moments when we have been competitive. Overall, that’s the goal,” said Russo of his team’s play thus far. “Going forward, we want to find some areas where we can keep getting better at our defensive zone play, our positioning, getting pucks to the net, and working on team play and competing at a higher level.”
Many of the Indians’ current players weren’t around during their 2017 championship run. Of the 20 athletes on Guilford’s roster, 12 are in their first year with the squad, including eight freshmen.
With such a young roster, it took some time for Guilford’s players to jell with one another while navigating their challenging Division II schedule. However, Coach Russo said that the Indians have had a great attitude throughout the season and didn’t let the early losses deter them in the long run.
“It’s an interesting mix of players,” Russo said. “We embrace the fact that we are who we are, and our job is to get better as a group. Whether we are winning 20 games or hitting some rough spots in the schedule, the goal for any team is to work through adversity and to try and get better.”
All 12 of Guilford’s new players have seen playing time on the varsity ice. Coach Russo is quick to point out freshman defenseman Shane Considine as one of the athletes who is stepping up during his first season. Considine has one goal and four assists on the year.
“He’s competing at a great level, playing consistently well, and playing great defensive hockey,” Russo said of Considine. “Moving the puck, challenging the opponent—it’s exactly what we need our defensemen to do.”
Coach Russo is also pleased with the contributions of fellow first-year players like junior Thomas Ring, sophomore Mike Torre, and freshman Will Petrick. Like Considine, Petrick has played a good amount in his freshman season. Ring has impressed Russo with his passion and competitiveness on every shift. Torre has two goals with five assists in his debut campaign, and Russo believes that the sophomore has a nice future ahead of him as a goal scorer.
While isn’t new to the team, goalie Gavyn Litvyn will be a key to the Indians’ success going forward. As a freshman, Litvyn was Guilford’s backup goalkeeper. Now a sophomore, he’s starting in net and getting an opportunity to help the Indians win games.
“After getting acclimated the first couple of games this year, Gavyn has really played well. He’s been one of the secrets of us winning some games,” Coach Russo said. “It’s been great to see his growth from the beginning to the year until now. He’s been really locked in.”
Although underclassmen and first-year players make up the bulk of the Indians’ roster, the team features three seniors who are leading the way this season. Russo said that captain Jack Dacey, fellow forward EJ Vickerman, and defenseman Tyler Considine are excellent competitors who lead by example and give it their all in every game.
Dacey leads the Indians in both goals and assists with 18 and 10, respectively. He played for the 2017 team that claimed the state title.
“He’s a natural scorer. He has a great shot,” said Russo of Dacey. “He knows how to position himself on the ice and he knows that when the game is on the line, he can dial it up and try to get a goal for us. From the scoring department, his skill and leadership has been important to keep us moving along.”
Russo also noted Tyler Considine’s versatility and fire on the ice, along with the speed and energy that Vickerman brings to his squad.
Last week, Guilford hosted West Haven and took a 5-0 loss at Patsy DiLungo Ice Rink on Feb. 5. The Indians were only down 1-0 entering the third period, but the Blue Devils scored four times in the final frame to walk away with the win.
Then on Feb. 8, Guilford took a 4-0 road loss against divisional opponent Cheshire at Wesleyan University. The Indians moved to 2-4-1 in SCC/SWC Division II play with the defeat.
As his team moves ahead and chases down a spot in states, Coach Russo said that Guilford needs to focus on playing as complete a game as possible.
“We need to play two-way hockey, good defensive hockey,” Russo said. “We need to move the puck quickly through the zone, and we need to get more pucks to the net. If we do those things, we’ll get the wins we need to get to the State Tournament.
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