1978-79 Suffield High School Boys Hockey Team
​​ ​Inducted in 2007
1978-79 SUFFIELD HIGH SCHOOL BOYS ICE HOCKEY TEAM (1st Row) Karl Kirschbaum, Peter Campanelli, Henry Gardocki, Wright Pearson, Chris Coppolo, David Hill, Shaun Fleming, Mark Sullivan, Marty Demers, Bob Parnell. (2nd Row) Manager Kim Carney, Manager Robin Hinckley, David Mann, Ben Dion, John Bertolini, Don Lownds, Bob Bauchiero, Gary Raynes, Chris Demers, Chris Noe, Danny Hinckley, Coach Larry Green. (3rd Row) Donny Heyse, Shawn Gifford, Jimmy Rossi, Gary Kuchachik, Billy Heyse, Peter Gardocki, Steve Pelletier, Roger Lenentine, Mike Cain.
When it came to schoolboy hockey in Connecticut in 1978, there were several high school programs that were well funded, had a history of successful seasons, and some even had a rink on their high school campus. Suffield High was not one of these teams. Still in their “hockey infancy,” the program was beginning its fifth year at the varsity level and received no funding from any outside source. Players had to pay their own way to play and relied on fundraisers to help defray the cost of uniforms, travel, and ice time. With a student body of only 500 students, and high school ice hockey being somewhat of a rarity in Northern Connecticut, they played as an independent team (no league affiliation) and were forced to play against significantly larger schools from all over the state.
Nonetheless, the team had a burgeoning youth hockey system that helped develop talent for the high school team and, in the winter of 1978-79, Suffield High was coming off a superb 19-3 season. They had advanced to the state tournament semi-finals where they lost to Notre Dame of West Haven. Although 6 Letterman had graduated, they had a sound nucleus of players returning and SHS was optimistic about the coming season. Coach Larry Green had decided to upgrade the schedule with the understanding that the team may win fewer games but, hopefully, end up better prepared for the March Division II tournament run.
The team started the season with two narrow losses to Division I teams, Fermi and Simsbury. They then reeled off four successive victories before settling for a tie with rival Enfield High. Two more wins prefaced a three-game span with Division I powerhouses Fairfield Prep and Hamden plus a rematch with Fermi. They lost the first two of these games but avenged their early season loss to Fermi. Three more victories followed before losing a second time to Simsbury. They closed the season with three more triumphs (including wins over Enfield and Notre Dame of West Haven), finishing with a regular season mark of 13-5-1. All five losses were to Division 1 schools.
They entered the Division II Tournament ranked 3rd, good enough to earn a first round bye. In their second round game against North Branford, they won fairly decisively by a 5-1 score. In the semi-finals, they faced the Norwalk Bears, a school with a population four times that of Suffield, and walloped the downstate team, 10-1. In the finals, they soundly beat Westhill of Stamford, a school with three times Suffield's population, by a 7-3 score to capture the Division II State Championship. Coach Green’s strategy had worked like a charm.
Suffield was led in scoring by the line of Wright Pearson, Henry Gardocki, and brother Peter Gardocki. Wright capped his brilliant scoring career by notching his 100th goal in a game against South Windsor earlier in the year (he finished with 113 goals). Not far behind in scoring, was the “young guns” sophomore line of Danny Hinckley centering Chris Demers, and Gary Kuchachik. The third line of Mark Sullivan, Shaun Fleming, and Chris Noe drew the tough assignments of penalty-killing and keeping the opposing team’s highest scoring line in check. The primary defensive pairs were Marty Demers and Steve Pelletier as well as Chris Coppolo and freshman John Bertolini. David Hill tended the nets for the Wildcats. Pearson was selected the tournament MVP and joined Marty Demers and Hill on the 1st Team All-Tournament squad. Chris Coppolo and Danny Hinckley were 2nd Team selections. Wright Pearson and Marty Demers were also named 1st Team All-State.
Overcoming the odds of a team with no funding, a program only 5 years old, a team from a school of only 500 students, and a team going up against some of the largest schools in the state, the 1978-79 Team shocked the ice hockey world by winning the State Division II Ice Hockey Championship for the first time in Suffield High School history.