Division I Primer presented by IPH Hockey
The day has arrived. The 2018-19 CIAC State Tournament is upon us! In place of our normal Morning Rundown, we will preview all of the day's action here in one tidy, easy to navigate Division I post.
At 5:00 the Division I tourney gets underway when 3-seed Darien (16-4) hosts 14-seed St. Joseph (2-18) at the Darien Ice House. Darien took down St. Joseph 9-0 when they met earlier this year. The Blue Wave have been on absolute fire to wrap up the regular season winning 12 straight regular season games. They faltered in the FCIAC semis and fell in double overtime to Greenwich so they'll look to get back in their winning ways today against St. Joseph. St. Joseph had a regular season to forget. They're in the tournament despite winning only two regular season games, both vs. DIII teams. The Cadets have lost eight straight entering play and will lean heavily on their talented senior goaltenders Will Brady (.840 save %) and Chris Higgins (.830 save %). It seems like Brady played a little more down the stretch but it's unknown who Lemaire will go with in this one. Up front, the Cadets will look for some offense out of senior Brandon Roselli (6 G, 6 A) and sophomore Wyatt Chrisman (5 G, 5 A). Darien is as deep as any team in the state with so many potent weapons at their disposal. Senior CJ Hathaway led the Blue Wave in scoring this year with 13 goals and 18 assists. But take a look at all the other legitimate scorers they possess, sophomore Sean Bradley (13 G, 14 A), junior Bennett McDermott (13 G, 14 A), sophomore Sam Erickson (9 G, 15 A), senior Blake Swiggett (9 G, 13 A), senior James Gregory (10 G, 11 A) and sophomore Jamison Moore (7 G, 12 A). That's quite the murderers' row of talented skaters. In net, senior Henri Pfeifle (.910 save %, 1.93 GAA) put together a brilliant year and posted three shutouts along the way. With a potential rematch with a NDWH team they just beat 7-3 waiting, you could argue Darien has the best road to the semis. But, as many of you, crazy things happen come March.
At 6:00 at Bennett rink, 6-seed Notre Dame-West Haven (10-9-1) hosts Fairfield Co-op (11-8-1). These two didn't have a head to head meeting this year. This matchup certainly looks like it favors NDWH but I think this one could be close for a while as Fairfield has proven to be able to battle some teams. Fairfield enters play after losing in the FCIAC play-downs in a wild game to DII Westhill-Stamford. The Mustangs don't really boast one guy that jumps off the stat sheet but rather have a collective that frequently hand off the baton to the next guy up. Senior Kyla Mazza leads all scorers with 9 goals and 18 assists. Sophomore Sam Swanson has really come on of late and leads Fairfield with 12 goals. Sophomore Rhys Davies (11 G, 15 A), freshman Finn Hoey (6 G, 15 A), senior Kevin Quinn (6 G, 11 A), junior Ashton Lewis (8 G, 9 A) and sophomore Brendan Carney (7 G, 10 A) round out the Mustangs scoring leaders. It's a young fun team who rely on the leadership of guys like Mazza and Quinn but should be really good in the not so distant future. We don't like to get our hopes up, but there are some whispers that senior Will Capalbo may be recuperated enough from his recent donor surgery that he may actually get the go in this one. Capalbo leads his other candidates with a 3.20 GAA and .863 save %. If those insanely intriguing rumors are just that, Fairfield will turn to either sophomore John Grace or junior Jordan Verchin. NDWH isn't that much different than Fairfield from a production standpoint. The Green Knights don't have a single skater of 19 points this year but have gotten points out 17 skaters this year. Sophomore John-Michael Childs leads the team in goals and points with 12 and 19 respectively. Senior Mike Card (8 G, 8 A), senior Ian Hayden (5 G, 11 A) , sophomore John D'Errico (8 G, 8 A), and the Andriole's, Charlie (7 G, 7 A), Rory (3 G, 7 A) will all be counted on from a production standpoint. In net, sophomore Connor Smith has had a great first year of high school hockey. Smith posted a 2.50 GAA this regular season with a .918 save %. Senior David Anania and junior Nick Piselli have seen some ice time of late but one has to think, Vieira will ride the talented sophomore in the tourney.
At Wesleyan at 7:00, 8-seed Xavier (8-10-2) hosts 9-seed West Haven (10-10). This is the 6th time Xavier and West Haven will meet up in the postseason since 2013, a bonkers stat. This is the 5th time it's come in the first with Xavier winning all previous four first round meetings, two in overtime. West Haven comes in after kind of an up and down year. They finished the year on a downer, losing four straight including a 4-3 final in overtime to Xavier in their only meeting this year. If I'm Xavier I hate this matchup. So much familiarity, so many games that have gone your, a few in very close fashion. The Westies should keep this close, because that's what they do. The winner of this game has the privilege of playing top-seed Ridgefield at a neutral site in the quarters. From an individual perspective, West Haven senior Niko Kyle is a pure joy to watch and a major headache for opponents. Kyle led the Blue Devils in goals with 17 and points with 35. He also has the distinction of being the on Westie to be a + player this year, posting a +7. Junior Kaden Morgillo (14 G, 10 A) had stretches this year where he took his game to the next level. Throw in big bodied junior Kevin Moriarty (13 G, 13 A) and there's your core. Additionally, freshman DJ Carfora (2G, 15 A) had a great debut and junior Robbie Forleo (4 G, 12 A) is as good as you can find at D. In net, junior Jared Pliszka has been excellent for WH posting a 2.62 GAA and .910 save %. Xavier will turn to senior leader Chase Maxwell (16 G, 14 A). Maxwell is elite, a leader on an off the ice and has on more than one occasion put his team on his back. Fellow senior Trevor Earley (4 G, 10 A) has put together an excellent senior campaign. West Haven will need to watch out for stud sophomore Nick LeClaire (6 G, 10 A). Each and every time he's on the ice he's something to behold, skilled, fast and pin point. On defense, there are few guys who can match what sophomore Luke Lappe (2 G, 7 A) brings on a nightly basis, hell of a baseball player too. In net, both senior Jake Woznyk (4 wins, 2.75 GAA, was unreal against LaSalle) and sophomore Kellen Beauton (4 wins, 2.00 GAA) have both shown glimpses of brilliance this year. At the end of the day, this is Xavier's to lose. West Haven will be playing with a chip and that West Haven vs. Everybody mentality. This is a fun one and one that the first few minutes could dictate whether Xavier takes the Blue Devils to wood shed or the Westies hang around to give themselves a fighting chance at the end.
At 7:00 at the Lou, 4-seed Hamden (12-8) welcomes 13-seed Notre Dame-Fairfield (7-12). Hamden is coming off a 1-0 SCC/SWC DI Championship win over the vaunted Fairfield Prep Jesuits so you know they'll be flying high. NDF is coming off an end to their regular season where they lost 4 of their final 5 games. NDF only ended up playing 19 games that count. What's interesting there is if the other game they played, a 3-0 win over Calvert Hall (MD), counted, they would be a qualifier and rocket up to the 10-seed. But that's in the past. Their focus now is on a Hamden team who beat them 3-1 in their only meeting this year. Hamden is led by their senior class that accounts for 79% of their offensive production. Their senior top line of Michael Gethings (17 G, 15 A), AJ Luedee (12 G, 18 A) and Eddy Fracasso (14 G, 17 A) is as good as any group in the state. The issue for Hamden is there's a big drop off after that. It seems that sophomore Bryce Riccitelli (5 G, 7 A) is back from injury so that'll be a big shot in the arm. On D, Hamden is led by talented sophomore Conor Gethings (6 G, 6 A) and competent stay at home guys like senior Ben Chicoine and junior Alex Ponzio. In net, senior Donald Moorcroft just keeps getting better. Moorcroft is coming off an impressive 41 save shutout of Fairfield Prep. He now owns a 2.60 GAA and a .905 save % on the year. NDF counters with an incredible goalie of their own. The Lancers haven't had the offensive fire power that Hamden has this year and Adams has had to be fantastic. He posted a 2.82 GAA and a .913 save % this year. Senior defenseman Justin Lasella was such a calming presence for NDF this year. He led the team in points with 2 goals and 16 helpers. Senior Nate Stiles (12 G, 5 A), senior Tommy Kuryla (6 G, 11 A), junior Aaron Martino (7 G, 5 A) and sophomore Brian Essing (4 G, 8 A) will look to take down the mighty Dragons. Hamden is 13-1 in first round games dating back to 2005.
5-seed Fairfield Prep (11-8-1) looks to bounce back from the SCC/SWC DI title game defeat to Hamden when they host 12-seed Simsbury (7-11-2) at the Wonderland at 7:00. Prep and Simsbury did not meet this regular season. The Trojans went 3-4-1 over their final eight games this year but boast impressive wins over teams like Hamden, Farmington Valley, Glastonbury, South Windsor and New Canaan. Prep was counted out by some early this year, claiming the turnover was too much for the Jesuits to handle. Well, Prep went 8-2-1 over their final 11 games and looks ready to compete with anyone. Prep is led by a talented senior core. Senior Colin Bella led the Jesuits in goals (14) and points (25). His linies, seniors Calyb Reeves (8 G, 15 A) and Chandler Dumont (9 G, 12 A) are as talented as they come as well. Sophomore Mason Whitney (10 G, 5 A) might have the most skill of the lot and causes matchup problems for days when coaches try to match lines. On D, the Jesuits are strong, as always, with guys like junior Cooper Eckert and seniors Jack Carroll and Connor Boyle. Not lost at Prep is the art of the stay at home defenseman. Senior Jake Walker was a rock in net this year for Prep. Walker finished with a 2.41 GAA and a .923 save %. His solid play made the loss of Jack McGee not hurt as bad for the Jesuits. On the Simsbury side, junior Cole Chapman is a rock star. Simsbury goes when he goes. The junior has 27 goals and 11 assists on the year. Look for fellow juniors Scott Simeon (11 G, 12 A) and Rocco Cirilli (7 G, 12 A) to give Simsbury a chance in this one as well. Simsbury's talented junior class continues in net with Jackson Bulger who's posted a 3.15 GAA and a .888 save % on the year. Playing Prep at Wonderland in the state tournament is a scary proposition for any team. Prep has won their last six home first round games dating back to 2009 and have outscored opponents 24-5 in those games. That streak should continue.
A good, old time FCIAC battle is on top at the Darien Ice House in the night cap when 7-seed New Canaan (13-6-1) hosts 10-seed Greenwich (9-9-2) at 7:30. This will be the pair's 4th meeting of the year. Greenwich beat New Canaan 3-1 in the first, New Canaan crushed the Cards 6-1 in the second and Greenwich won the latest matchup 3-2 in the FCIAC play-downs. Greenwich is coming off a lopsided loss to Ridgefield in the FCIAC final. The Cards will be without impressive freshman Wes Zolin (10 G, 13 A) for this one after he took a major and DQ in the FCIAC Championship. That puts some more of the burden on senior Matt Davey (18 G, 15 A), Greenwich's team leader in both categories. Look for someone like senior Sean Pratley (8 G, 8 A), senior Julian Ribushofsky (8 G, 5 A) or sophomore Thatcher Danielson (5 G, 10 A) to step up in his absence. On the blue line, Greenwich possesses two of the best all around defensemen in the state in senior Nic Pelletier-Martinelli and junior Ryan Columbo. This big question for Head Coach Chris Rurak is what to do in net. Freshman Charlie Zolin has been outstanding over the past month or so. Zolin was especially impressive in Greenwich's double overtime win over Darien when he stopped 46 shots. On the other side, you have junior Ben Nash who carried the Cards through the tourney last year but has had his share of struggles this year. This one might come down to a game time decision. Whoever is in net is going to have to deal with the beast tht New Canaan senior Gunnar Granito is. Granito finished the year with 32 goals and 12 assists to lead the Rams in points. Granito has been synonymous with New Canaan hockey over the years and this being his swan song, expect him to elevate his play to another level. Sophomore Griffin Deane emerged as another viable option for New Canaan this year. The Sophomore finished with 10 goals and 11 assists on the year. After that there are a few more bodies who can step up. Sophomore Brooks Gamill (4 G, 14 A), senior Jack O'Hare (8 G, 4 A), senior Walker Ker (2 G, 9 A) and junior Justin Weitfeldt (3 G, 7 A) are just a few. 21 different Rams recorded a point this year. In net, senior Dylan Shane is their guy. Shane posted an impressive 2.30 GAA this year along with a .903 save %. This could be the most even of all first round matchups. The winner will head to a neutral site to face 2-seed Northwest Catholic in the quarters. A lot of question marks around Greenwich right now. One thing that's not under scrutiny is the talent on both sides of this one.