A Look At The Division III Quarterfinals
Chalk. Not a single upset. The Division III First Round played out exactly as the seeding said it would and that lands us at Quarterfinal Thursday. A chance to punch your ticket to Ingalls. For many, they've never been. For some, it's been a while. Let's take a look at our four Division III Quarterfinal matchups.
(8) Newtown (9-11-1) vs. (1) Daniel Hand (17-3-1)
7:15 Bennett Rink
Daniel Hand has already had an unreal year. They won the most games in program history and clinched the top seed. With that, they drew the four-win Redhawks as a 16-seed. Hand cruised. This one was never in doubt as Hand pinned the Redhawks back and allowed only 10 shots the entire game. Mid way through, the Redhawks had only amassed three. Sophomore Eric Dillner stopped all 10, obviously, and was rarely tested. Senior Mike McKeon led the way for the Tigers with two goals and an assist. Sophomore Joey DeAngelis had two tallies while senior Ian Rice and junior Brendan Ryan both collected a goal and an assist. With that win, they draw 8-seed Newtown who defended their home ice by soundly beating 9-seed Wilton, 7-2. This was Newtown's first playoff win since 2014 when they won a state title. Seven different Nighthawks lit the lamp in this one showing off some impressive depth. The list includes seniors Andrew Gardner, Mike McCann and David Brestovansky, juniors Mathias Paltauf and John Radovitch and sophomores Aidan Bepko and Phil Makris. Freshman netminder Markus Paltauf stopped 24 shots in the victory. These two met quite recently back on February 24th. That game ended in a 6-2 Daniel Hand victory. Ironically, the last time either of these teams made it to Ingalls was 2014 when they both won state titles, Hand at the DII level and Newtown at the DIII level. It's going to take a perfect effort from Newtown to take down #1. Hand is playing at an elite level and our only recent sample size gives us little reason to worry about them here. To make things even more difficult for Newtown, sophomore stud Phil Makris (illness) appears to be out for this one.
(5) JBWA (13-8) vs. (4) Sheehan (15-5-1)
7:45 Northford Ice Pavilion
Sheehan is an odd 4-seed. I mean, look at the 4-seed at DI, they're no longer playing. Sorry Dragons. Sheehan is the hottest team at the DIII level, they are rolling and taking no prisoners. That sets them up with their third meeting with JBWA this year. In the previous two, a 12-5 Sheehan win during the regular season and a 10-1 Sheehan win in the SCC/SWC DIII title game, Sheehan has demolished the Knights to the tune of 22 goals scored in six periods. It wasn't much different for the Titans in their CIAC DIII First Round win, 6-1 over 13-seed Northeastern. Junior Devin Napoli scored three times for the Titans in that win and has been an absolute game changer since becoming transfer eligible. Also scoring in the win over Northeastern was senior Jake Festa and sophomores Luke Festa and Anthony Romano. JBWA outlasted 12-seed Housatonic-NW-Wam in their first round win, 7-5. The Mountaineers wouldn't quite go away in this one but the stellar and sometimes overlooked play of senior Travis Nussbaum was enough. Nussbaum collected a hat trick and assisted on two more while sophomore impact player Daniel McKiernan added two goals and three assists and sophomore Dante Esposito added a goal and an assist in the win. I'll tell ya this much. JBWA is going to have to shore up defensively if they want a shot in this one. Five goals against to Housy doesn't bode well for their third meeting with the Titans. Neither of these teams has made it to the state semifinals, so something has to give here. I think Sheehan is too tall of a task the way they are playing at the moment.
(7) New Milford (10-11) vs. (2) LHK (15-6)
7:15 Wonderland of Ice
This is fun little quarterfinal. LHK absolutely trounced 15-seed Masuk in their opener and look to be back to the team they were earlier this year. New Milford comes in ready after a 6-3 win over 10-seed BBD. I think for a lot of people predicting the DIII field, the lopsided loss to JBWA followed by the beat down JBWA suffered at the hands of Sheehan, made a lot of people skeptical of this LHK squad. The talent is there in spades, the coaching is elite, there's just that recent sampling that has caused for some consternation. In their first round dub, Minnix opted to go with senior Matt Smith in net. Smith was fine stopping 12 of 13. It'll be interesting to see if he goes back to starter Andrew Sacco for this one. I would guess yes, but we'll see. Senior Kyle Roberts, with two assists, reached the 200-point milestone, which is pretty nuts. Little brother and freshman Jack Roberts had a great game in this one scoring twice and assisting on two more. Junior Matt Pettit and sophomore Aidan Weir also jumped off the score sheet with two goals and an assist each. Masuk was not really in this one, they scored to make it 3-1 at one point but LHK quickly put any doubt to rest. LHK ended up outshooting Masuk 34-13 in that one. New Milford wore down BBD in a hard hitting, sandpapery affair. Senior Zach Hook was phenomenal, collecting three goals and three assists. Junior Ian Donahue had a goal and two assists while senior Jack Mayers continued to play well collecting two goals and two assists in the win. Kind of like JBWA letting Housy scored five times, I'm a little skeptical of New Milford letting BBD score three. After all, I just recently saw Milford shutout BBD. So, that's something to keep in mind. I went out on a limb in my pre-tourney picks and took New Milford in an upset here just because I figured there was going to be an upset somewhere. I'm less confident in that pick now but still could see it happening. LHK does seem like they've figured some things out, though. In their only meeting this regular season, LHK needed overtime to topple the Green Wave, 4-3.
(6) Tri-Town (11-8-2) vs. (3) Newington Co-op (16-5)
6:00 Spurrier-Snyder Rink, Wesleyan
Both squads enter this one coming off shutouts in the first round matchups. Newington blanked 14-seed Trinity Catholic 9-0 while Tri-Town did away with 11-seed Staples 4-0. That sets up a good matchup here that I think will be closer than Newington's 5-1 win over Tri-Town on January 2nd, the only other time they met this year. In their rather lopsided win over Trinity Catholic, junior Alex DiPaola posted the shutout, his 4th of the year. Sophomore Killian Ranger had a nice night collecting a goal and three assists while the seniors took it from there. Senior Ethan Ranger had a goal and two assists while Matt Lavoie and Patrick Doherty both scored twice in the win for Newington. Newington is trying to make it back to Ingalls for the first time since winning the DIII title back in 2013. Obviously, Tri-Town is coming off a championship game defeat in last year's final so a repeat trip to Ingalls would certainly be special for that group. In their first round win over Staples, senior Peyton Emrick posted the shutout in net while junior Alex Knisley had two goals and senior Ben Kingsbury and junior Sam Teel chipped in with goals of their own. I picked Newington here before the tourney, but I think there's something to be said about a lot of these Tri-Town kids and their experience playing deep into the tournament last year. I think this is probably the closest DIII quarterfinal matchup on paper. Newington just seems like they have way more horses right now to run with than Tri-Town but I wouldn't be shocked at all if Tri-Town took this one.