The inaugural boys hockey partnership of the Southern Connecticut Conference and South-West Conference culminates this week with the SCC-SWC Hockey League tournaments.
Division II is wide open with the semifinals on Thursday at Bennett Rink in West Haven. No. 2 North Haven (12-5-3, 7-1-2) faces No. 3 Amity (12-7, 7-2) at 6 p.m. and No. 1 Branford (15-3-1, 8-1-1) faces No. 4 Cheshire (9-9-1, 6-3-1) at 8 p.m. The final is on Saturday at 2 p.m. at Bennett.
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“Our boys are excited and looking forward to the tournament,” North Haven coach Tom Roche said. “They feel that they have been working hard and it has paid off. The coaches are just as excited about this tournament as the players. I can’t wait for the puck to drop.”
Amity and Branford both have strength front to back. The Hornets are led by speedy forwards Tyler Hackett and Tyler Crisuolo and goalie A.J. Brink. The Spartans are led by forwards Adam Shea, Keating Seymour and Brett McNeil, defensemen Johnny Uscilla, Ryan Hauser, Scott Saffran and Dalton Luciani and goalie Brian Mosher.
Roche credits North Haven’s success to its three strong lines. Vin Fasulo is the leading scorer (22 goals, 10 assists) and other top forwards are Chris Lion, Mike Tantorski, Mike Hrbko and Joey D’Amico. Matt Bogart, Phil Gauvin and Kyle Van Bramer are among the top defensemen and Andrew Graziano and Chris Pullano are the goalies.
Cheshire has its share of talent, led by forward Luke Vendetto (20 goals, 19 assists), defensemen Dan Purslow and Matt Vallillo and goalie Joe Solla.
Cheshire coach Karl Sundquist believes opponents shouldn’t look past the Rams just because they are the four seed.
“We know we are fortunate to have gotten in the tournament, but now that we are in, we know we are a tough team to beat,” Sundquist said. “We hope the other teams take us lightly being the 4 seed. We respect the other teams, but we know we are good enough to beat any of them. It’s really anybody’s tourney.”
The Division III tournament semifinals will be today at the Milford Ice Pavilion. No. 1 Newtown (13-4-3, 6-0) faces No. 4 Sheehan (14-5-1, 3-3) at 6 p.m. and No. 2 New Fairfield/Immaculate (12-5-3, 5-1) faces No. 3 Masuk (16-4, 4-2) at 8 p.m. The final is on Friday at 8 p.m. at Bennett.
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“These games are all going to be tight games. Each team is very well-coached and the team that executes its game plan should win,” Sheehan coach Dave Festa said. “This is a great tune-up for the state tournament. Being in the company of Newtown, Masuk and NFI, the high level of play and the intensity should prepare all four teams for a great run into the CIAC tournament.”
Sheehan is led by forwards Mike Capozzi, Christian Giacondino, Michael Cerrotti and Nick Candido, defensemen Jimmy McNamee, Dan Hennessey and Brian Leach and goalie Carly Femniak. Newtown has three solid lines led by forwards Jon Lovorn and Cooper McLean.
“Everyone associated with our program is very excited about the new format of the tournament,” Newtown coach Paul Esposito said. “It’s a great opportunity for quality teams to compete against each other. It’s a win-win for high school hockey in Connecticut, mainly in part because it’s giving more kids the chance to play on a main stage.”
Depth and team speed have been Masuk’s strength this season, led by forwards Shane Dushay (40 points) and Charlie Christo (29), defenseman Christian Suda (15) and goalie Conner Muller (14-4, 2.10 goals against average).
New Fairfield/Immaculate coach Larry Vieira of Milford said hard work has been the reason for his team’s success. Defense has been the key, led by goalies Ryan Dobos (2.02 GAA, three shutouts) and Marchello Carlucci (1.14 GAA, one shutout) and defensemen Joe Hicks (12 points), Jake Ryan (12) and Joe Carlucci (10). The top forwards are Brian Gunn (21), Parker Evans (19), Matt Hooker (11) and Frank Hakalits (17), who has only played in 11 games due to an injury but is now healthy.
“The NFI ice hockey team is thrilled to be in the first-ever SCC-SWC tournament,” Vieira said. “It allows my student-athletes to play one, maybe two more games this season against the best teams from the conference.”
In Division I, the championship game will be played on Friday at 6 p.m. at Bennett. Notre Dame-Fairfield (14-4-1, 5-1), ranked No. 2 in the Register Top 10 poll, will be one of the teams in the final.
Notre Dame-West Haven (13-5-1, 5-1) will join the Lancers unless Fairfield Prep (11-4-3, 4-1) beat East Haven by 10 or more goals on Tuesday night.
2014 SCC/SWC Boys Ice Hockey Playoff Schedule
Wednesday, March 5 at Milford Ice Pavilion
- No. 1 Newtown vs. No. 4 Sheehan, 6 p.m.
- No. 2 New Fairfield-Immaculate vs. No. 3 Masuk, 8 p.m.
Friday, March 7 at Bennett Rink, 8 p.m.
Thursday, March 6 at Bennett Rink
- No. 2 North Haven vs. No. 3 Amity, 6 p.m.
- No. 1 Branford vs. No. 4 Cheshire, 8 p.m.
Saturday, March 8 @Bennett Rink, 2 p.m.
Friday, March 7 at Bennett Rink, 6 p.m.
- No. 1 Notre Dame-Fairfield vs. No. 2 Notre Dame-West Haven