Nighthawks Boys’ Hockey Hoping to Grow on Undefeated Streak
The North Haven Nighthawks boys’ ice hockey team has had a hot start to the season, with a current record of 10-0.
The Nighthawks are coached by Chris Avena, who is going into his fifth season with the team. He is assisted by Dennis Mastriano and Michael Tantorski. North Haven competes in the Southern Connecticut Conference (SCC)/Southern Western Conference (SWC) Division II.
There are three senior captains on the team, including William “Will” Sullivan (senior, forward), Owen Quick (senior, defenseman), and Joseph “Joey” Taft (senior, defenseman). Avena has been very happy with the leadership the captains have displayed this season and shared how each one individually impacts the team.
“They definitely all bring different skill sets to their roles. Joey is our guy who gets everyone going vocally,” said Coach Avena. “Owen is our top skilled guy, leads by example. Will is the guy who quietly goes about his business but is the go-to guy organizationally and the person who keeps it all together.”
In the 2022 season, Avena and the team competed all the way to the state championship but fell short against Wethersfield. Although there are only three captains, Avena mentioned that all nine seniors have a large impact on the squad.
“We do have a very strong senior class from a leadership standpoint,” said Coach Avena. “Their class is currently in realms of having a record of 52-12-4. They are very accomplished, they have played in a bunch of big games, and they all bring some form of leadership to every game, every practice, to the rink every day.”
Coming off their successful season, Avena looks forward to continuing to win games with the core of seniors who returned from last year, as well as the rest of the team.
“I think [after] losing the state championship last year, I think our seniors are laser-focused. I think the one thing that they are missing is a state title; they are driven to accomplish that,” said Coach Avena. “I think every game this year we have gotten better and better, bringing our A-game more often as this young season has progressed every game. It’s really dropping the puck, giving them some focus and direction, and then the senior class has just taken that and has done what they have done.”
Senior goaltender Bryce Peterson has 16 total starts as a varsity netminder and is currently 16-0. Avena shared that Peterson is playing with a sense of urgency this season and that he has something to prove.
“He certainly has something to prove, and I think that he is out to do that. He is playing exceptionally well,” said Coach Avena.
With every sport, there is always a challenge. For the Nighthawks, that is staying on top of their A-game day in and day out, as well as winning games that determine their standing. So far, with their undefeated record, North Haven is currently ranked as number two for states.
“Last year, we went 23-3; we had a 21-game winning streak that got snapped in the finals. We feel we are the hunted; we won the conference two years in a row, so everyone in our conference wants to be the team that beats us,” said Coach Avena. “Understanding that [and] embracing that, but then mentally being able to bring your A-game every single day to be able to defend against that, I feel that is our biggest challenge.”
There are several rivals that the Nighthawks compete against throughout the season. Those teams include North Branford, Branford, Hand, and Lyman Hall. Another rival this season will be the state championship rematch against Wethersfield, which will be on Senior Night for North Haven on Saturday, Jan 28.
To prepare for the challenging schedule and conference games to come during the remainder of the season, Avena talked about what his team does during practice to ensure they are always ready.
“All big games, where teams want to take it to us, we have to be up for that challenge day in and day out. We try to make practice as challenging and difficult as possible, so the games are more of a test,” said Coach Avena. “You prepare for a test, and then you take the test. We have just been fortunate enough where we have passed our test so far, every game this year.”
To go along with last year’s accomplishments and impressive record, Quick was also a member of the All-State and All-Conference teams. Besides him, a few other players Avena highlighted that are having a stellar season thus far include Tommy Guidone (senior, forward), Sullivan, and Alex Peterson (senior, forward).
There are also multiple sets of brothers on the team for the Nighthawks, which is uncommon during youth hockey because of the different age categories that players fall into, so when siblings get to play on the same team, it is more fun for the families who support them.
“It’s fun for the parents because it is the first time the kids get to play together because of the age groups in youth hockey,” said Coach Avena. “It has been a pretty special environment to be where we are, in the position that we are in, and have the families enjoy both of their kids on the team at the same time.”
Avena also added to the fact that this team is so special because every year, the senior class creates a bond with the incoming underclassmen.
“It is to my amazement, over the course of the last three to four years, how our senior class each year has embraced the incoming underclassmen,” said Coach Avena. “They are picking them up to come to the rink; they are making sure they are all together for the pasta parties; they leave together. It is impressive that the kids have established that on their own, where the senior class really looks out for the underclassmen.”
Despite the fact that North Haven shares a home rink with other teams in their conference, Avena said there is never a lack of support from students and the school administration at the games.
“Steve Blumenthal and the administration have been extremely supportive ever since I have been here. The student body shows up in waves every single game for us at home, which gives us a home rink atmosphere,” said Coach Avena. “It has been a pleasure to have all of that encompassed in what we are doing; it’s a lot of fun with a lot of people involved, which makes it as successful as it is.”
The Nighthawks roster includes Ethan Buck (senior, forward), Guidone, Connor Keaney (senior, forward), Andre Ohanyan (senior, forward), Bryce Peterson, Alex Peterson, Quick, Sullivan, Taft, Nolan Cole (junior, forward), Jake Donovan (junior, defenseman), Lleyton Geremia (junior, defenseman), Ben Gilbert (junior, forward), Jack Keaney (junior, goaltender), Jaxson O’Brien (junior, defenseman), William Keaney (sophomore, defenseman), Bryce Montabana (sophomore, forward), Logan Ohanyan (sophomore, forward), Christopher Consorte (freshman, forward), Mark Guidone (freshman, forward), Gavin Knauft (freshman, forward), Bryce Mastriano (freshman, forward), Paul Mastriano (freshman, defenseman), and Andrew Porto (freshman, defenseman).