Division III 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 III post.
The Division III State Tournament kicks off at 5:30 in Danbury where 5-seed JBWA (12-8) hosts 12-seed Housatonic-NW-Wam (6-12-2). JBWA and Housy split their head to head meetings this year which gives this one some added intrigue. Housy took the first meeting this year 6-4 but the Knights followed it up with a 6-2 win in the second meeting. JBWA is a juggernaut offensively and can turn a 0-0 game into a rout quickly. Sophomore Daniel McKiernan exploded on the scene this year leading the Knights in scoring with 47 goals and 33 assists. Combined with the constant production of senior Travis Nussbaum (40 G, 34 A) and JBWA has a two headed monster that is hard to match. Senior Andrew Powell (19 G, 32 A) moved to the blue line this year to give JBWA some added maturity in a position where they were a little thin. His contributions are seen nightly. Senior Kevin Brennan ended up having a solid finish to the year in net for JBWA and saw action in all but 28 minutes for JBWA. Housy senior Jack McAuliffe often gets forgotten when discussing the best players in the state but he put together a really respectable senior campaign notching 17 goals and 18 assists. Look for fellow senior Owen Byrne (10 G, 9 A), junior Luke Mollica (7 G, 10 A) and steadily improving junior Anthony Cardello (8 G, 4 A) to contribute if Housy wants to pull off the upset in this one. Heading into the year it looked like senior goalie Matt Murray would run away with the goaltending duties for Housy but sophomore John Purdy has played well at times giving Head Coach Dean Diamond some decisions to make in net. JBWA looked fantastic in their SCC/SWC DIII semifinal win over LHK but looked thoroughly overmatched in their championship game matchup with Sheehan. If JBWA gets out to a lead early they could cruise and make for a long night for Housy.
At 6:00 at Northford, 1-seed Daniel Hand (16-3-1) hosts the 16-seed Redhawks (4-15-1). These two did not meet this year but Hand comes in as the overwhelming favorite. Hand boasts the @IPHHockey/@CTHSHockey Division III Goalie of the Year in sophomore Eric Dillner. Dillner appeared in every game for the Tigers this year and posted an impressive 2.70 GAA. Hand comes at you in waves and has a multitude of bodies that can score at will on you. Eight different Tigers collected double figures in points this year led by sophomore Tatum Fitzmaurice (14 G, 25 A), senior Mike McKeon (10 G, 20 A), sophomore Joey Deangelis (11 G, 17 A), senior Griffin Fitzmaurice (13 G, 14 A), sophomore Ethan Massey (15 G, 9 A), junior Brendan Ryan (9 G, 13 A) and sophomore Logan Massey (8 G, 12 A). Watch for freshman Kevin Sandor to lock down the blue line. In his first year Sandor won the @IPHHockey/@CTHSHockey DIII Defenseman of the Year award. Hand collected the most wins in program history this year with 16 and first year Head Coach Brian Gonsalves won the @IPHHockey/@CTHSHockey DIII Coach of the Year. The Redhawks figured out a way into the tourney despite only winning four games during the regular season. Among wins that stand out would be a 3-2 win over DII's Hall-Southington and a 3-2 win over DIII offensive powerhouse JBWA. Unlike Hand, the Redhawks don't have a depth of scoring. Sophomore Steven Turchetta (17 G, 19 A) has had to do a lot of the heavy lifting for the Redhawks this year. His 17 goals account for 63% of the team's goal total (27) this year. In net, the Redhawks will lean on senior Spencer Flynn. Flynn has the ability to stand on his head and steal a game but that is going to be a supremely tall task against the talented Tigers.
7-seed New Milford (9-11) hosts 10-seed BBD (6-12-1) at Canterbury at 7:30. New Milford beat BBD in their only meeting this year, 5-2. The Green Wave, dangerous in their own right, dropped four of their final games of the regular season. BBD on the other hand fell in six of their final seven games. New Milford boasts one of the best all around players in the state in senior Zach Hook. The senior, who returned to New Milford after a year at prep school, collected 22 goals and 19 assists this year and was named an @IPHHockey/@CTHSHockey DIII Skater of the Year finalist. He's joined by senior Evan Golembeske (8 G, 16 A) and senior Jack Mayers (7 G, 11 A) in a trio that's accounted for 81 points, good for 61% of the team's overall offensive production. In net, New Milford's two-headed monster of senior goalies split time this season playing almost an identical amount of minutes. Seniors Ben Marano and Hayden Giampietro are goalies any team would be lucky to have. It seems, at least of late, Giampietro has taken the reins but it wouldn't surprise me at all if Marano and his tidy 2.40 GAA got the nod. On BBD's side, sophomore Eryk Fancher has really stood out all year. The gifted forward has 9 goals, 9 assists on the season. BBD spreads out their scoring pretty well despite not scoring a ton. No IceCats has double digit goals on the year. Senior Patryk Fancher (8 G, 6 A), junior Tyler Caldera (3 G, 9 A) and senior Tommy Schiesser (6 G, 4 A) have been other key contributors for Rusty Granacker's club this year. Senior netminder Alex Fernandes has been BBD's MVP as far as I'm concerned. Fernandes has posted a 3.33 GAA and a .940 save percentage on a squad that's not getting him a ton of goal support. He can hang with the top DIII goalies easily. New Milford has the talent to make a run in this tournament. BBD is seeded slightly higher than their evaluated skill. Lopsided losses to Housy and Milford to finish out the year probably have BBD doing some soul searching. But completely count them out, after all, they did tie Hand 6-6 earlier this year.
Shortly thereafter at 7:40, 8-seed Newtown (8-11-1) hosts 9-seed Wilton (9-10-1) in Danbury. These two met once this year and like any good 8/9 matchup, they tied 3-3. Newtown finished the regular season in less than stellar fashion losing 7 of 9 with their only two wins over that span coming against Shepaug and Mt. Everett. Wilton wasn't much better losing 7 of 8 but some of their losses were due to the faulty FCIAC system. These two match up pretty evenly. They both have a a chunk of top end scorers and then a large drop off. For Wilton, the addition of sophomore David Overbeeke was a Godsend. Overbeeke finished the year with 19 goals and 12 assists. Senior Dean Dinanno (18 G, 10 A) is the glue that keeps Wilton going and sophomore Jackson Kelly is another that Coach Miserendino will rely on up front. On the back end, junior Tommy McHugh is strong. The defenseman had 7 goals, 9 assists this year. In net, sophomore goalie Logan Motyka's (.822 save %, 4.60 GAA) numbers won't really jump out at you but if you take out the DI losses, they would inevitably get prettier. Newtown senior David Brestovansky (30 points) will finish in the top three in goals and assists in Newtown's history. He's looking for one last run. A pair of 21 point scorers in junior Mathias Paltauf and sophomore Phil Makris will look to see that through. In net, the Nighthawks' freshman goalie Markus Paltauf has been excellent this year. Thrust into action, the undersized freshman, Paltauf, has posted a 3.10 GAA and .897 save %. While neither team has had a quality win in over a month, I think this one will be fun to watch. Flip a coin and you have about as good of a chance at picking the winning as you do toiling and analyzing data on this one.
At Choate, 4-seed Sheehan (14-5-1) welcomes 13-seed Northeastern (6-13-1) at 8:00. Sheehan is as dangerous as any team in the state right now and just ran over JBWA in the SCC/SWC DIII title game 10-1. Sheehan has won seven of eight and should be handled with care. Northeastern finished the regular season super respectfully going 3-1-1 over their final five. These two did not meet up this year. Sheehan is loaded. Sophomore Anthony Romano (20 G, 28 A) leads the team in scoring but he's not alone. Brother and sophomore Joe Romano (18 G, 18 A), sophomore Luke Festa (11 G, 17 A), sophomore Joey Richo (13 G, 12 A), senior Jake Festa (13 G, 12 A) and junior Devin Napoli (12 G, 11 A) round out a group that would strike fear into almost any opponents at this level. For a point of reference, Northeastern doesn't have one guy who be in the seven in scoring on Sheehan but it's a senior led group that will be hungry not to let their season and careers die out. Seniors Max Sendley (7 G, 8 A) and Sean Power (7 G, 8 A) lead the team in points with 15. Sophomore Noah Fleming (6 G, 7 A) has had a nice year and senior Kyle Johnson (7 G, 3 A) can turn it on any point as well. In net, a pair of juniors have carried the weight for the Shamrocks this year with Nick Miranda (3.02 GAA, .901 save %) and Derek Leshak (3.20 GAA, .899 save %). Northeastern wasn't a complete pushover when they faced better opposition this year losing to WMRP and Woodstock 3-1 and more recently taking down 8/9 seeds Newtown and Wilton. This one, at the end of the day, likely pits the hottest team at the DIII level against an upstart group that couldn't have drawn a worse matchup. I think Northeastern will find a way to keep this one close for a bit, though.
At 8:00 in Northford, 2-seed LHK (14-6) takes on 15-seed Masuk (5-14-1) at 8:00. LHK took down the Panthers in the only meeting they had this year, 6-3. This one seems like a lopsided affair on paper where LHK is the exceedingly stronger offense. But Masuk boasts one of the state's best goalies in senior Tag Weiss. Weiss is proven and can steal games at any given moment. Given the amount of shots he sees, his 3.40 GAA is staggering. His .925 save percentage is also wild considering that he's saved 40+ shots ten times this year. Junior Kyle Cirillo leads the team with 12 points. Senior Will Ferraro had 11 this year and fellow senior Nikita Kuzmitski added 10 points. Let's flip over to the other bench where you have three players with over 40 points on the year. LHK is led by senior all-everything and @IPHHockey/@CTHSHockey DIII Skater of the Year finalist Kyle Roberts. Roberts is nearing 200 career points and has 30 goals and 35 assists on the year. He's joined up front by junior Matt Pettit (21 G, 30 A) and little brother, freshman Jack Roberts (13 G, 28 A), our @IPHHockey/@CTHSHockey DIII Freshman of the Year. LHK has the versatility to see guys like juniors TJ Islieb and TJ Arduini or sophomore Aiden Weir steal the show as well. They're deep on the back end with players like Connor Chordas and Mike O'Toole and have capable goaltending in sophomore Andrew Sacco (2.91 GAA, .893 save %) and senior Matt Smith (2.75 GAA, .901 save %). LHK should win this one with ease, logically. But, when you throw a kid like Weiss in the mix, crazy things can certainly happen.
3-seed Newington Co-op (15-5) takes to the ice hosting 14-seed Trinity Catholic (5-15) at the Newington Ice Arena at 8:10. Newington finished the regular season winning 6 of 7. They did not, however, meet up with Trinity Catholic this year. The Crusaders, after starting the year 3-1, went 2-14 the rest of the way. Newington is an interesting team, kind of skating under the radar for most of the year, mainly because they didn't have any head to head meetings with the DIII big three. However, in a good measuring stick game, they lost by one goal to Cheshire and beat the Eastern CT Eagles. Also, Newington got better as the year went along. Earlier in the year they were beaten handily by teams like WMRP and EO Smith. Towards the end of the year those margins of defeat narrowed. Newington is one of the deeper teams at DIII from a points perspective. Senior Ethan Ranger (19 G, 14 A) led the team in points with 33 and was a force all year. The list is long after him and filled with potent scorers and distributors. Seniors Matt Lavoie and Andrew Graham both had 12 goals on the year. The pair on D of senior Patrick Doherty (20 points) and junior Justin Stergos (16 points) is hard to replicate. The list goes on, but you get the idea. In net, junior Alex DiPaola (2.30 GAA, .872 save %) and sophomore Andrew Fogarty (2.60 GAA, .869 save %) have five combined shutouts on the year but those didn't exactly come against the state's best. They'll need to be strong. Trinity Catholic continues to be a team to root for, just based on sheer numbers alone, how could you not? The Crusaders found themselves quite the goalie this year in sophomore Jeffrey Reda (5.06 GAA, .900 save %). On the surface his numbers don't impress but when you realize that Reda is facing an average of 46 shots per game, they start to make more sense. Junior Jack Kinahan reached the 100 point mark this year but had a relatively tame season for his standards with 21 goals, 8 assists. Junior Andrew Ellis was second on the team in scoring with 7 goals, 9 assists and senior Billy Schaner chipped in 7 goals, 7 assists. The Crusaders also boast one of the state's best, unknown defenseman in senior Zach Deleo (6 G, 6 A). I'd like to think TC has a shot here but these two teams couldn't be further apart from a depth perspective. The Crusaders have the edge in net but after that it's Harackiewicz's boys.
6-seed Tri-Town (10-8-2) and 11-seed Staples (7-13) link up in a really fun 6/11 matchup at the Twin at 8:10. The Terrorcats were a hard team to get a grasp on this year. Their longest win streak this year was three games while they never lost more than two straight. They swept the season series from DII SGWL but other than that they don't really have any other huge wins. Just a steady, tough to matchup with hockey team. Staples notched a huge win taking down Trumbull only to follow it up with a loss to a Milford team who was already out of the tourney. The Wreckers own wins over New Milford and Newtown this year and will 100% be in this one. Staples has relied heavily on the contributions of senior Zach Strober this year. Strober has 10 goals and 14 assists on the year. The Wreckers have only scored 37 goals this year so the senior has been involved in 65% of the goals scored. After Strober, the next highest point getter is junior Alex Goodman with 8 points. Senior Dylan Mace has had a nice year for the Wreckers and will be leaned on heavily in this one. On the home side, senior Mike Shuman is the best pure goal scorer in this game and should be circled by every opponent. Shuman has 22 goals on the year to go along with 12 assists. He's not alone, though. Senior Ben Kingsbury (8 G, 19 A) and junior Alex Knisley (8 G, 13 A) can shine on any given night as well. Tri-Town also has one of the best offensively inclined defensemen at the DIII level in junior Nick Dannenfelser (5 G, 15 A). In net, it's the rosy cheeked hero, senior Peyton Emrick. The performance this kid put on in last year's postseason still echoes. This year Emrick was strong yet again posting a 3.20 GAA and a .890 save percentage. He'll need to harness what made last March so special for Tri-Town, if the Terrorcats are to make a run. Aside from the Newtown/Wilton game, I think this one will be the closest. Staples has been embroiled in turmoil this year with Halloran and his exit. It'll be interesting to see how the Wreckers do on the road, with a later start time against a really good Tri-Town group.