Division III Championship Preview presented by IPH Hockey
(4) Sheehan (17-5-1) vs. (2) LHK (17-6)
7:00 Ingalls Rink
It's what many have always wanted to see, a Wallingford War for all the marbles. A battle between solo school Sheehan and the Lyman Hall-Haddam Killingworth-Coginchaug co-op, more commonly referred to as LHK. This is the first time in either programs' history that they will play for a state title and in true Quinnipiac/Yale fashion, of course it's against each other and one has to lose.
The season started strong for both teams. Sheehan jumped out of the gate to an 8-2 record with their only losses coming to Division II foes Cheshire and East Haven while LHK started the year 10-2 with their only defeats coming at the hands of Cheshire and Branford. These two met up at Spurrier-Snyder Rink at Wesleyan on January 26th and it was all Trojans that night. Sophomore tendy Andrew Sacco stopped all 24 shots he faced. Senior Kyle Roberts and juniors Matt Pettit and TJ Arduini all scored and LHK took the first battle in what we now know was a much larger war.
The second time around the Titans got their retribution. At a filled to capacity Northford Ice Pavilion, sophomores Luke Festa and Joey Richo both lit the lamp twice and the Titans cruised to a 5-1 victory. The Titans have only lost once since, a 5-3 decision to a Daniel Hand team that they dispatched in the semifinals Monday, 8-2.
To get to this point, 4-seed Sheehan has outscored opponents 26-6 through their first three postseason games. It started in the first round where they disposed of 13-seed Northeastern 6-1. They then went on to crush 5-seed JBWA 12-3 and with the pedal firmly planted to the floor, they took down top seed Daniel Hand 8-2 in the semifinals. In that win both senior Jake Festa and sophomore Anthony Romano notched hat tricks. Festa assisted on three others while Romano assisted on two others. Junior Devin Napoli added a goal and three assists and sophomore Joey Richo had a goal and an assist in the win.
2-seed LHK's road hasn't been as bumpless. They flew through the first two rounds beating 15-seed Masuk 6-1 and 7-seed New Milford 6-0 but were given all they could handle from a physical and talented 3-seed Newington Co-op. The Trojans would use some late magic to avoid defeat at the hands of the Indians and grab the win 4-3. Junior Matt Pettit finished the game with two goals and an assist, scored the game tying goal and was an all around force all game but it was junior defenseman Mike O'Toole who scored the deciding goal, roofing a wrist shot past Newington netminder Alex DiPaola to propel the Trojans on to the final.
This all brings us to tonight. I feel safe stating that there's never been a Wallingford hockey game with more anticipation or excitement leading up. Ingalls Rink will no doubt be filled to capacity. There's so much drama here it should be aired on daytime television. Sheehan, one of the few individual, public Division III schools left, and the co-op headlined by Lyman Hall High School, who's best player goes to Coginchaug. Sheehan fans won't let you forget this. Don't think for one second, however, that this will detract from the feel in the rink tonight. Co-ops are a part of Connecticut High School Hockey no matter what some may say to the contrary, so let's get past that and focus on the matter at hand.
Sheehan comes in piping hot. They've been blowing the doors off their opponents with reckless abandon and don't really seem like they're slowing down. LHK looked like they were in a bit of trouble for a while against Newington before the late game heroics. The Titans appear to be, at least from the eye test, the favorite going in. I think we can throw that notion out, however. This is the third installment of the Wallingford War and all bets are off.
Regardless of outcome, we will say farewell to some definite superstars. Enjoy watching Sheehan's Jake Festa and Tyler Robertson for the last time. Soak in LHK's Kyle Roberts final high school hockey game. Remember the atmosphere next time someone tells you high school hockey is dead in Connecticut and enjoy the hell out of this one.