Joe Boyle, December 20, 2019
WALLINGFORD, CT -- The last horn the Sheehan Hockey team heard in a meaningful game hit a little bit different. It was only their sixth loss of the 2018-19 season, to their cross-town rival, in the CIAC III State Championship.
“We took a few weeks off, but then we got back together, because that added to the fire,” said Sheehan Head Coach Dave Festa. “It really put the laser focus attention on it. The kids are focused, they put a lot more attention in, we saw a lot more engagement as far as going into this year.”
Festa added that the sting of the loss was not because of it being to Lyman Hall/Haddam Killingworth/Coginchaug, but because it ended such a magical season.
Festa’s contributions to the Sheehan Hockey Program are something to be noted. The season before Festa joined the program, the Titan’s went 2-18 in CIAC Division II. When the program dropped to CIAC Division III, the numbers began to deplete and Festa needed to work with a roster of eight skaters and three goalies in the 2011-12 season. The team still made the state tournament every season despite the regression in players, and quite frankly, talent (I can say that because I was the first class Festa had from Freshman to Senior year).
“It’s funny. You look back over the years and you look at those little things of instilling those levels of character,” said Festa. “It may not be immediately obvious in those first couple of years, you can begin to see how that culture has grown for our team -- It’s been building on years and to see that number of consistent numbers coming out to try-out for the team has been rewarding.”
Festa and Sheehan enter the new season with a target on their back. They are the favorite in the CTHSHockey Poll for the Division III Championship as well as the favorite for the Fan Poll put out by CTHSHockey.
“It’s all we talk about,” said Festa on returning to the Division III State Championship. “We know we have to take care of the games in front of us and the little things need to be taken care of, but that is the absolute goal. Every practice we put up the score of the game so it is very prominent in our practices.”
6-2. That’s the score on the boards. Unable to help the Titans will be Tyler Robertson who has graduated and moved onto junior hockey. Robertson was the four year starter for Sheehan and helped pull the Titans into last season’s state final.
“We’ve had two goalies who have come in and in the first scrimmaged have shown very well,” said Festa. “That was one of the questions you have when you lose a four year starter and he leaves as the captain of the team, it’s hard to fill those dynamics. I think one of the things is the effort and determination our two new goalies have.”
Those two goalies are Justin Lyon and Luca Mange. Mange is a sophomore transfer from Stratford and Lyon is a freshman.
Now to the returners. Yes, the Romanos return to put on another show at the high school hockey level. The Romanos have garnered the thought they could leave early for prep hockey, which is not unwarranted. Both big bodied forwards, they have hockey awareness and enough talent to build on, and the numbers to back it up.
Sheehan also has captains Devon Napoli and Dayton Allderige. Napoli is a skilled defenseman/forward and Allderige is hard working forward. Also returning is Luke Festa, who is poised for a monster year and rumor has it that he will have it. Joey Richo is an energizer bunny of a forward who has proven to be able to carry the puck into the offensive zone with speed and control, and their whole defensive unit is back.
The hype is not unwarranted. Other than a question mark in net, Sheehan is going to have a good season. They kick off with JBWA and Shepaug before seeing the newly formed Immaculate, which should be a challenge. The battle of Wallingford will be their fourth game of the year and could be a good chance to steal some Division II points for a win. They will end the season with East Haven Co-op on February 29.
“It’s one of those tough situations this year as to where to put your players,” said Festa. “The expectation is set that if you are not willing to put in the work to get back to the state championship, the guy behind you will.”