Division III Semifinal Preview presented by @IPHHockey
While Division I and Division II decided seeding was arbitrary and any old double digit seed can make it to Ingalls, Division III was all chalk, not a single upset throughout the DIII tourney to this point. In fact, it's been staggeringly one sided in favor of the higher seed. Winning teams have outscored losing teams 88-16 so far in the DIII tourney. Of teams let, they've outscored their opponents 54-7. Let's take a look at these dominant teams.
(4) Sheehan (16-5-1) vs. (1) Daniel Hand (18-3-1)
5:30, Ingalls Rink
In the 5:30 matchup, top seed Daniel Hand (18-3-1) takes on 4-seed Sheehan (16-5-1). This will be the third meeting between the two SCC/SWC squads this year and the third within a 16 day span. Hand took down the Titans 5-3 when they met during the regular season and Sheehan returned the favor in the SCC/SWC semifinals, beating Hand 2-1. Both coaches seem excited for this one and why wouldn't they? "Facing Hand for a third time will be good. We've both had a chance to feel each other out. Each game was a tactical battle, constant system changes and line combinations. I look forward to a close fast game, " Sheehan Head Coach Dave Festa said when asked about the rematch. On the Hand side, first year Head Coach Brian Gonsalves echoes many of those sentiments. "Playing Sheehan again will be a lot of fun. The atmosphere is going to be out of this world."
In the quarterfinals, Hand cruised past 8-seed Newtown 5-0. Hand has now outscored their opponents 12-0 this postseason with sophomore goalie Eric Dillner not really being tested all that much. In that win, sophomore Tatum Fitzmaurice had a goal and two assists while fellow sophomore Joey DeAngelis added a goal and an assist. Junior Alex Spina, sophomore Ethan Massey and freshman Kevin Sandor all added goals as well for Hand who is looking to make their first trip back to the championship since 2014 when they beat Amity 5-4 in the DII final.
Sheehan took on 5-seed JBWA for the third time this year and once again crushed them, 12-3. Combined the Titans put up 34 goal on JBWA this year. In that win, junior Devin Napoli had a hat trick while senior Jake Festa and sophomore Anthony Romano both scored twice. For Romano it was his 100th career point. Five other Titans scored in this one as well. Sheehan is looking to make it to the state championship for the first time in their program history. Festa is eager for the opportunity to do this. "Heading to Ingalls is very special to me, especially with having my boys on the teams. Although, this team has grown together much like a family, we've faced our share of issues and personal adversity. In the end it has brought us closer and more cohesive. It's been amazing going on this journey with this team," Festa said.
While this is would be Sheehan's first trip to a final with a win, I don't think anyone had Hand making it this far coming into the season, this included Gonsalves. "For me personally, it's awesome to get to Ingalls. I didn't necessarily think we'd get there. This team has constantly proved me wrong. Looking back at breaking a program record, you sit back and go 'Holy cow, did we really do this?'"
Gonsalves insists playing their style and staying disciplined are keys to a Hand victory. Festa will be imploring his boys to get a good front presence while getting a lot of pucks on Dillner. This game could go either way and I wouldn't be shocked in the least. A dynamic first DIII semifinal.
(3) Newington Co-op (17-5) vs. (2) LHK (16-6)
7:30 Ingalls Rink
In the second of the two matchups we have two teams with no familiarity. These two didn't meet during the regular season and know very little about each other. That could make for some fun hockey. LHK Head Coach Richie Minnix believes that lack of familiarity could make for a positive challenge for his squad. "We know nothing about Newington. We haven't seen any of them this year. But what we do know is they have run the table in Division III and they played some good Division II teams to close games. I'm honestly thinking expecting the unknown is going to be a fun challenge for the boys," Minnix said.
That unknown northern presence known as Newington Co-op withstood a good effort from 6-seed Tri-Town in the quarterfinals, ultimately coming out on top 3-2. In that game, the Indians' senior class did a lot of the heavy lifting with Andrew Graham collecting a goal and an assist and Ethan Ranger and Matt Lavoie scoring as well. Newington is looking for their first trip to a championship game since winning their second of two back to back titles at the DIII level in 2013 when they beat BCR 1-0.
LHK blew past 7-seed New Milford in the quarters, 6-0. They've now outscored their two postseason opponents 12-1. In their win over New Milford, senior Kyle Roberts and sophomore Aidan Weir both collected two goals and an assist. Freshman Jack Roberts tallied a goal and two assists while junior Matt Pettit added a goal and an assist. Sophomore netminder Andrew Sacco posted a 25 save shutout in the win and will be a vital piece of the Trojans making it to their first championship game ever.
Some keys to victory according to Minnix, "Start fast and control the pace. We are going to need secondary scoring. Our X-factor will be Sacco. There is no better goalie at the Division III level than a locked in Andrew Sacco," Minnix said.
While this game is getting a little overshadowed by the SCC/SWC rematch of Hand and Sheehan, this game is going to delight as well. Newington has been kind of overlooked all year but if you really dig into their schedule and the results there, they are a team that could take this game and more. LHK hit a bit of a stumbling block late in the year but looks like their back to playing Trojan hockey.