MORE CIAC HOCKEY TOURNAMENT PREVIEWS:
OUTLOOK | 5 PLAYERS | TOP 10 | SCOREBOARD
Storyline: After three years of FCIAC domination, Fairfield Prep reclaimed its throne in 2018 and kept it last year. If the Jesuits do pull off a third title in a row, it’ll be a milestone in at least two ways: the 18th CIAC Division I championship in state history, breaking a tie with Hamden; and the 12th for coach Matt Sather, breaking a tie with Hamden legend Lou Astorino. They’ll come in as the favorite, ranked No. 1 in the GameTimeCT Top 10 poll.
You should know: The last team to win three CIAC titles in a row was Fairfield Prep, 1979-81. Hamden won four in a row twice, 1965-68 and 1973-76.
Storyline: Both New Canaan and Darien graduated their senior goaltenders last year. Neither team has missed much of a beat: New Canaan is 19-2-1 with an FCIAC championship behind freshman goalie Beau Johnson, and Darien was the No. 1 team in the state for much of the year with sophomore goaltender Chris Schofield.
You should know: The last freshman or sophomore goalie to win a Division I championship game was Fairfield Prep sophomore Scott Jacob in 1995.
Storyline: Notre Dame-West Haven had an up-and-down season in 2018-19 but rallied together late to win three tournament games and reach the state final. The Green Knights had a different kind of up-and-down year this season, looking great some nights and inconsistent others. They still accumulated enough good wins to earn the No. 1 seed and a bye to Saturday’s quarterfinals. Three tournament wins will mean a different kind of ending this time.
You should know: Last year was only the second time since the three-division format began in 2006 that no No. 1 seed made a final (2014 was the other).
Storyline: The state’s top teams have mostly beat up on each other, but there is one team that beat both New Canaan and Darien: Hamden, which did it back-to-back to start a roller coaster of a season. Notre Dame-Fairfield is the fifth seed and gave Fairfield Prep its only tie behind Nick Piselli’s monster goaltending night. Hamden and Notre Dame meet in the first round for the second year in a row; the Lancers won last year. Immaculate, playing its first playoff game as an independent program since 2007, has been better than its record, losing eight games by two goals or fewer. There’s also Simsbury, well-respected around the state, which defeated the top-10 likes of Notre Dame-Fairfield, Xavier and its first-round opponent, Ridgefield.
You should know: Of teams that aren’t in the current FCIAC or SCC/SWC, the only two that have won a Division I title are Enfield (1983) and Simsbury (2003).
Storyline: Xavier has won a playoff game five years in a row. The only other teams in the state that can say that? The Falcons’ rinkmates at Wesleyan, Division II Cheshire, whose streak goes one year further to 2014 (when Cheshire has played in a Division II tournament, it has won its first game 14 consecutive times, back to 1998; it’s a tough task this year, but goalie Nick Maringola may be the state’s best); and Fairfield Prep, which hasn’t lost its first game since 2009. Xavier has reached the semifinals in three of those five years, including two in a row.
You should know: Xavier is the only team in this year’s Division I or Division II tournaments (counting the host school, for the co-ops) that has never reached a CIAC final at any level.
FEELING THE STING
Storyline: They don’t roll three full lines like some teams, don’t often mix in five or six defensemen like some others, but what Branford throws out there, it’s talented. They filled some of their holes from last year’s championship team, found other players to fill still other holes when injuries hit, and earned the top seed in their title defense.
You should know: This was impossible anyway for stretches where Division II champions were forced to move up to Division I, but no team has ever repeated as Division II champion. (Enfield won Division II in 1982, then won Division I in 1983.)
Storyline: If experience plays a role in this tournament, there’s plenty of it in Division II. The field includes six champions from the past three seasons: Branford, third-seeded Farmington Valley and 15th-seeded Guilford won Division II titles in 2019, 2018 and 2017, respectively; and 11th-seeded Lyman Hall/Haddam-Killingworth/Coginchaug, the 13th-seeded Eastern Connecticut Eagles and sixth-seeded Woodstock Academy are the past two Division III winners.
You should know: Since 1984, 86 tournaments, only seven double-digit seeds have won championships: Four 13s, three 11s.
EYE OF THE TIGER
Storyline: Hand set a school record with 18 wins last year, more even than the Tigers won in winning Division II championships in 2006 (15) and 2014 (14), and they did that despite falling in the semifinals of both postseason tournaments. They’ve won 17 this year, looking for four more after losing in a shootout in the conference semifinals last week. They’re deep and talented.
You should know: Since the tournament semifinals and finals moved down the block from the New Haven Coliseum to Ingalls Rink in 1999, 10 teams have lost a semifinal one year and won a championship the next, including six in Division II. All did it in the same division in which they’d lost the year before.
Storyline: The sheer firepower that Sheehan returned from last year’s Division III finalist had eyes opened basically since they walked out last year with silver medals. The Titans have four 100-point scorers between the Romano twins and Luke Festa and Devin Napoli. Their defense gets involved, and Anthony Romano said the other night that it and freshman goalie Justin Lyon have been underrated. They have the target on their backs these two weeks, but they’ve played pretty well with it for almost three months.
You should know: There are 10 playoff programs that have not won a CIAC championship, all but Xavier and Northwest Catholic in Division III. (For two other co-ops, their host school has won a title on its own.)
Storyline: The other side of the Division III bracket is headlined by a couple of teams that, if they meet in the semifinals, will do so for the fourth time in about a month. The Newington co-op won the first, but Hall/Southington won the other two, including one in the CCC South semifinals. The Warrior Knights are the only Division III team to beat Sheehan, too. It has been a fine year for both. Newington picked up five players from Canton, which has added to the co-op’s depth.
You should know: Eight of the first 12 true Division III champions have been co-ops. Two of those were first-year co-ops and at least two others added a school to the mix that year.