Third-year Notre Dame-Fairfield boys hockey coach Steve Hetherman never takes credit for his team’s success.
He always gives kudos to his players, his assistant coaches, the support of parents and the school administration. If you gave him enough time, he would probably give some credit to the Zamboni guy for prepping the ice between periods at the Milford Ice Pavilion.
Last week was among the most memorable weeks in program history, and a highlight of Hetherman’s short tenure with the Lancers. Notre Dame, which started the season 3-3, continued its incredible roll with a 6-2 win over then-No. 2 Notre Dame-West Haven on Wednesday, and a 2-1 win over No. 1 Darien on Saturday in a game played at Webster Bank Arena in Bridgeport.
As an encore, the Lancers, who are now 12-4-1 and moved from No. 6 to No. 4 in the Top 10 poll this week, defeated No. 7 East Haven 6-3 on Monday.
“Our success begins and ends with good student-athletes,” Hetherman said. “These student-athletes want to get better, want to do the little things to make the team successful and you are seeing the results. These players are applying what the coaches are teaching in practice. They believe in themselves, the systems and trust their teammates.”
The Lancers boast experience and talent front to back. Greg Ferris, Pete Lemere and Craig Hessenius are among the top defensemen. There is depth at goalie with Justin Krochko, Zak Bouve and Jesse Burns. The top scorers are Nick Carloto (12 goals, 13 assists), Christian La Croix (12-12), Jon Suporn (13-10), Garrett Gintoli (9-10) and Dan Walsh (7-12).
Many Lancers are from the New Haven area, including forwards La Croix (North Branford), Walsh (Milford), A.J. Lucatino (East Haven), Justin Dupuis (Shelton), Josh McCormack (Wallingford), Gintoli (Shelton), and Mark Russo (North Branford). On defense, Ryan Gawricki (Shelton), Lemere (Ansonia) and Ferris (Shelton) are locals as well as a trio of goalies from Milford — Krochko, Bouve and Sean Rowland.
“This is my third year at Notre Dame and last week was quite memorable,” Hetherman said. “But I can’t accomplish this alone. At NDF, we have a wonderful athletic director, Rob Bleggi, and coaching staff with (assistants) Ben Vaill, Fred Gore and John Vazzano. They all really connect with our student-athletes. And there is (longtime statistician) George Burr, who contributes. Our job is to develop our student-athletes so they can play at the next level and it’s been a real team effort.”
And oh yeah, don’t forget the Zamboni guy.
North Branford Gaining Momentum
North Branford has been experiencing an up-and-down season, but an 8-4 win over SCC-SWC Division II rival Guilford on Feb. 12 generated some momentum for the Thunderbirds, who won three in a row to get their record back to the .500 mark at 8-8.
“That win over Guilford showed our potential and what we are capable of accomplishing,” North Branford coach Ralph Shaw said. “Since then the team has been playing better in both ends of the rink, and especially in the offensive zone. We also had a solid win over Trinity Catholic (4-2 on Feb. 17).”
Among the top players for the Thunderbirds is forward Alec Martone, who Shaw said has been a consistent presence on the ice. Martone leads the team with seven goals and five assists. Adam Burke has added five goals and five assists and Brian McKee has five goals and two assists. Defensively, Brendan Appi and Nick Johnson have been among the top backline players and freshmen goalie Will McEwen has played well.
“We had an inconsistent start to the season, but as of late we have been playing better,” Shaw said. “We have had some quality wins throughout the season. We played well against Trinity Catholic and I am hoping that this win streak is a turning point for the team. We have the ability, we just need to work hard and stick to the game plan. As far as the playoffs go, this team is starting to fire up. I am excited for the T’birds’ potential.”
SCC-SWC Playoff Update
Four teams are set for the Southern Connecticut Conference/South-West Conference Division III semifinals with Newtown, Immaculate/New Fairfield, Masuk and Sheehan in the final four. No. 1 Newtown will face No. 4 Sheehan and Masuk will play the co-op, but games played this week will determine who gets each seed. The semifinals will be on March 5 at 6 and 8 p.m. at the Milford Ice Pavilion with the championship on March 7 at a site and time to be announced.
In Division II, North Haven and Branford have clinched spots in the semifinals with Amity, New Milford, Cheshire, Milford and Hand in the running to join them. No seedings, sites or times have been determined yet. The semifinals and final will be on March 6 and 8.
In Division I, which only features a championship game, Notre Dame-West Haven, Notre Dame-Fairfield and Fairfield Prep are the three teams for the two spots. The championship game will be held March 7 at a site and time to be determined.
In SCC girls action, Branford will face Milford/Notre Dame-Fairfield for the Division II title Wednesday at Bennett Rink at 4 p.m. In the Division I championship, Simsbury will face East Catholic at a site, date and time to be determined.