Can anyone beat Fairfield Prep?
Story line: The Jesuits have been called the most complete team in the state this season by several Connecticut coaches whose teams have played them. There are 10 players with double-digit points, led by Kevin Oricoli (six goals, 19 assists, 25 points). On defense, they are led by goalie Jack McGee (1.68 goals-against average) and coach Matt Sather calls defenseman Cole Casl (five goals,17 assists) one of the state’s best two-way players.
You should know: Fairfield Prep is 18-2-1 overall, but it is 14-0 against Connecticut opponents this season including a 5-0 win over Notre Dame-West Haven in the SCC/SWC Division I tournament championship game on Saturday.
Fairfield Prep’s top FCIAC challengers
Story line: The Jesuits top challenge from the Fairfield County Interscholastic Athletic Conference should come from defending Division I champion and No. 5 seed Ridgefield and No. 2 Greenwich. Like Prep, both teams have balanced scoring with strong first lines. Lately, the Cardinals’ defense has struggled a bit allowing 18 goals in their last five games. The Tigers played Prep twice in the regular season lost both times by scores of 6-1 and 5-1.
You should know: Ridgefield beat Greenwich 6-4 in the FCIAC tournament final on Saturday.
Prep’s top challenges from the SCC/SWC
Story line: No. 3 Xavier, No. 4 Notre Dame-West Haven, No. 6 Hamden all have the talent and coaching to be competitive against the Jesuits. Any of these teams can get hot and go on deep postseason runs. A common denominator is how competitive these teams have been against the FCIAC this season. Xavier has a 4-2 record against FCIAC teams, Notre Dame is 5-1 against the FCIAC and Hamden is 2-2. Another team to watch is No. 8 New Fairfield/Immaculate, which moved to D-I this season and has been ranked in the Register Top 10 poll all season.
You should know: Combined, Prep is 6-0 against these four teams this season.
Northern teams to watch in Division I
Story line: While No. 10 Simsbury has had a couple of solid wins in the regular season against Hamden (6-3) and Northwest Catholic (3-2), but overall the Trojans have had an up and down season with a 9-11-1 record. The best chance for a deep D-I run from a team in the north will likely come from No. 7 Northwest Catholic. The Lions enter the tournament on a roll with a six-game win streak and they advanced to the CIAC D-I final last season where it lost 6-2 to Ridgefield.
You should know: Northwest Catholic defeated Farmington Valley 3-2 in overtime in the Central Connecticut Conference North Division tournament championship game.
Guilford the Division II favorite
Story line: Defending D-II champion Guilford is a strong favorite to repeat. The No. 3 Indians have a strong offense with two solid lines. They are led by the first line of John DeLucia, Jack Dacey and Jack Ring, arguably the best first line in D-II. The Indians also have a strong defensive unit that includes Tom Cattaneo and Joe Neleber, who owns one of the hardest slap shots on the team.
You should know: The weakness for the Indians was supposed to be starting goalie Mete Yanbul, a career soccer forward at Guilford making his organized hockey debut. But he served notice on Saturday he will be a postseason force. He made 25 saves in a 3-2 win over Watertown/Pomperaug in the SCC/SWC Division II tournament final. And oh yeah, he was named the game’s most outstanding player.
SCC/SWC D-II challengers
Story line: Eight of the 16 teams in the CIAC Division II tournament are from the SCC/SWC and there is the potential for four teams from the league to advance to the semifinals. Two teams on solid rolls entering the postseason are No.8 Branford and No. 7 Amity. The Hornets are 7-2 in their last nine games and the Spartans are 5-2 in their last seven games. But the team to watch is No. 2 Watertown/Pomperaug, which has two solid lines and a talented goalie with Ryan Fleming. Watertown/Pomperaug advanced to the CIAC D-II final last season and lost 5-3 to Guilford.
You should know: Guilford and Watertown/Pomperaug, both in the lower bracket of the CIAC D-II tournament, will likely meet again in the semifinals.
Other Division II challengers
Story line: Conard has the talent to go on a deep run and has gone 8-5-1 in its last 14 games. You can’t ever count out teams in the FCIAC because they consistently play tough regular-season schedules. Sixteenth-seeded Westhill/Stamford is 7-9-2, but it faced five Division I teams and went 1-3-1 against them. However, No.1 Farmington Valley is the team with the best shot to challenge Guilford and Watertown/Pomperaug for the title.
You should know: The Generals have been in the Register Top 10 poll throughout the season and have a 14-2-1 record in their last 17 games including the CCC North Division tournament.
Hall/Southington vs. Conard rematch
Story line: The Connecticut high school hockey community will be watching this matchup on Tuesday at Veterans Memorial Rink at 1:10 p.m. after last week’s rough regular-season matchup. In that game Hall/Southington forward Drew Booth took a hard hit that resulted in him sustaining extensive facial injuries that required six hours of surgery. Booth is out of ICU and is recovering. Hall athletic director Jason Siegel expects cooler heads to prevail in the next matchup with the Hall/Southington team dedicating the rest of the season to Booth.
You should know: Hall/Southington moved up to D-II this season. Last season, the Warriors advanced to the CIAC D-III final where they lost 7-3 to Woodstock Academy.
Sheehan a tough out in Division III
Story line: Depth that includes three scoring lines, a solid group of defensemen and goalie Tyler Robertson have combined to make the No. 4 Titans a formidable team on the Division III level. Joey Romano, Anthony Romano and Dayton Allderige are among the team’s top scorers. Nick Gonsalves and Alex Ficorilli are among the top defensemen for the Titans (18-4).
You should know: The Titans kicked off their postseason in style with an 8-3 win over Brookfield/Bethel/Danbury in the SCC/SWC Division III tournament final on Saturday.
Top challengers for the D-III title
Story line: While Sheehan will be tough, No. 1 Staples, No. 2 Enfield/East Granby/Stafford and No. 3 Tri-Town are among the favorites to win the title. These teams all have 12 wins and four others have more victories. But strength of schedule at this level makes these three teams very tough. Staples played five Division I teams in the regular season and enters the CIAC tournament with a 12-6-3 record.
You should know: The Division III tournament started on Monday and the top four seeds should easily advance to the next round.