MILFORD — When Hand and Sheehan met four days ago to wind down the regular season, Sheehan goalie Tyler Robertson didn’t like his game much.
Robertson made up for it Wednesday night at Milford Ice Arena in the SCC/SWC semifinals. His 33 saves paced the Titans to a 2-1 win over Hand and a berth in Friday night’s conference final.
“That’s a good feeling. That’s a big win,” Robertson said. “We just lost to these guys (5-3 on Saturday). I didn’t have my best game. I felt that loss a lot. We made up for it tonight.”
Defending-champion Sheehan scored twice in the first period and rode Robertson, who made a couple of stops on the Tigers’ first power play in the closing minutes.
“(Robertson) was incredible. He played a great game,” Hand coach Brian Gonsalves said. “He made some stops he didn’t make Saturday. We took it to them for the most part. He stood on his head and did a great job.”
Sheehan (15-5-1), the third seed in a tournament that features four of the top five seeds in the upcoming Division III state tournament, will meet fourth-seeded JBWA (13-8) in Friday night’s final at 8 at West Haven’s Bennett Rink. The Knights beat top-seeded LHK 6-2 in the second semifinal.
The flashiest statistic of the second game was Daniel McKiernan’s five goals, but Knights goalie Kevin Brennan was sturdy in net with 26 saves.
“He didn’t make a lot of flashy saves, but he didn’t need to, because he was positioned so well,” JBWA coach Bob Stearns said. “Every game, he’s getting better and better and better.”
Barlow, the first-year co-op’s host, last won a conference title in 2009, the SWC Division 2 tournament.
JBWA led 3-0 on two McKiernan goals and one from Travis Nussbaum. After Kyle Roberts tipped in the first of his two goals to get LHK (14-7) on the board late in the first, McKiernan tucked in a power-play rebound early in the second.
The difference between Wednesday and LHK’s 7-5 regular-season win a week and a half ago, to LHK coach Rich Minnix: “Just laziness, lackadaisical effort. It just wasn’t our night.”
Stearns said the intensity in the Knights’ dressing room was elevated, too, from the regular-season meeting.
“We’ve been building as team all season,” Stearns said, “slowly getting better and better and better and better, and it showed. We played a great game, and we made a good team not play that well. That’s a really quality team over there. They didn’t play badly. We just played well.”
Sheehan carried play for much of Wednesday’s first period before second-seeded Hand (16-4-1) got things going. And even then, as Hand picked up its pace for stretches of the second period and started building an edge in shots, the Titans limited Hand’s chances.
“Our defensive-zone positioning, we were trying to keep them to the outside and limit their shots, limit their puck-movement,” Sheehan coach Dave Festa said.
“They’re a strong team that can move the puck pretty well in the offensive zone. They didn’t really get a lot of clean looks, and I think that was one of the keys to the game.”
And Robertson said his teammates cleared rebounds in the second period that might’ve given the Tigers second-chance goals.
“I don’t know if it was a combination of them, or us, or a little of both, but we definitely struggled the first half of the game to get to the net,” Gonsalves said.
“By the end, by the third, we were able to get there and cause some chaos.”
Joey DeAngelis got Hand’s goal off a left-circle faceoff, a shot that appeared to change direction under Robertson, with 9:22 left.
Jake Festa scored first for Sheehan 1:20 into the game, breaking in off a touch pass from Devin Napoli after Anthony Romano’s stretch pass to the far blue line. Romano scored the second goal with 25.3 seconds left in the first off Napoli’s centering pass.
Sheehan freshman defenseman James Stratton left the game early with a headache, Festa said, stressing, “not a concussion, a headache. We just erred on the side of caution.”
PLAYER OF THE GAME
Sheehan goalie Tyler Robertson came up with big saves all evening.
I KNOW IT LOOKS KEEN
Signs at Milford Ice advertised that the rink is looking for a Zamboni driver. Call 203-258-1856.
“(This tournament) is a good taste of the atmosphere, a good taste for these boys to get that playoff feel out of way. At the same time, throughout the season we had some games building up to this moment, a couple of the Guilford games and whatnot.” —Hand coach Brian Gonsalves