Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Elite Eight Predictions Week Six (1/21-27)

I am going to stick to the 8 games per week. If you would like a "Twitter Pick" tweet @cthshockey and I'll send you a pick there!

RECORD: 27-10-3   LAST WEEK: 5-3

Elite Predictions: Mark these on the calendar

1/21 Notre Dame-Fairfield @ Hamden 7:00 @ Lou Astorino Rink
In my eyes Hamden proved themselves by not only beating Hingham, but doing so soundly. ND Fairfield will be playing their first game in 11 days and now have the services of a few bodies they started the season without. Hamden has won 3 of the previous 5 meetings but the Lancers have won the most recent two, handily. This should be an offensive affair as both teams like to score in bunches. The first period will tell a lot in this one and will test whether the Lancers have the legs to hang after the long layoff. If NDF can stifle Hamden's bread and butter of Routh/Ugolik/Blackwell, they could take this one. However, as hot as they're playing, I'd be a fool to pick against the Dragons. Hamden 5-4

1/22 Delbarton (NJ) @ Fairfield Prep 7:00 @ Ingalls Rink
Delbarton is the #1 ranked school in New Jersey and comes in with a (9-2) record. The Jesuits have handled challenges like this before and are (5-0-1) against teams from New Jersey over the past four seasons including a win over Delbarton two years ago. Prep is hanging around the pack more than they have in years past, leaving the door seemingly open for another team to take the top spot in the rankings with a slip up. I don't see that happening, yet. Prep 3-1

1/23 Cheshire @ North Haven 8:00 @ Northford Ice Pavilion
Both teams are in a bit of a slide right now. Cheshire lost two pivotal games last week to comparable D2 opponents in North Branford and New Milford and most recently gave D1's South Windsor their first win of the year. North Haven has only won two games this year and they both came against teams under .500 (East Haven & Trumbull). Cheshire has gone (0-4-1) against the Indians in their last five meetings. North Haven, even in losses, has been keeping games tight against good competition. I think the Indians keep their unbeaten streak alive against the Rams, in a close one. Cheshire 3-2

1/24 Glastonbury @ Xavier 10:30 @ Wesleyan Ice Rink
Four of Xavier's last five games have gone to extra time. They are (0-2-2) in those games. Their lone win over that span came against a decent Simsbury team. The Falcons seem to have what it take to win these games but are missing that killer instinct. The Tomahawks have won 6 of 7 with the lone loss coming in a 1-0 goalie display to East Catholic. These two haven't met in recent memory but Glastonbury is a good team. The early start time could cause for some jitters but Glastonbury should win this game. However, it wouldn't surprise me in the least bit if the Falcons find a way to finally get over the top against a good team. Glastonbury 4-3

1/24 Newington-Berlin @ Conard 1:00 @ Veteran's Memorial Rink
This is another measuring stick game for the Chieftains. Conard is 4-0 against D2 competition this year and has even notched two wins over D1 teams. The Indians have struggled of late, needing overtime to beat D3's Hall-Southington and falling to D3 powerhouse EO Smith-Tolland. I think Conard continues to prove they are for real this year. These two haven't met recently so there is some unfamiliarity and a win here would do wonders for New-Ber's confidence going forward. I just don't think it happens. Conard 5-3

1/24 Woodstock Academy @ Sheehan 1:15 @ Choate Ice Rink
Sheehan comes in with one loss all year so record-wise they look strong. I'm just not sure we entirely know who the Titans are. We know they can score goals but they tend to allow crooked numbers to teams they shouldn't. Woodstock, still the knew kids on the block, have proven they can compete with decent teams but they haven't proven they can beat top tier D3 teams. Do they have what it takes to beat a Sheehan, most definitely. But I don't think it'll happen. Sheehan 5-3

1/24 St. Joseph @ New Canaan 6:00 @ Darien Ice Rink
St. Joseph has been playing well of late winning four straight. The problem is two of those four wins have come against D3 FCIAC schools while the other came against D2 FCIAC clubs. New Canaan will be a serious challenge as they've proven they can compete with solid teams beating NDWH twice and challenging other top teams in close losses. This game should be closer than some would think. St. Joe's has given the Rams trouble in the past but those Cadet teams were a bit stronger than this version. I think the Rams put a 2-2 tie against Xavier and a loss to rival Darien in the rear view and take this one. New Canaan 4-3

1/24 NFI @ Masuk 8:00 @ The Rinks at Shelton
This is a D3 battle we've been waiting for. Anytime NFI, Masuk, EO or even Sheehan face off against each other you could be looking at a D3 semifinal or final preview. NFI has been winning by scoring goals, Masuk, while they're able to score in bunches, has really done a nice job keeping the puck out of the net. Both will be coming off challenging Wednesday games (NFI has New Milford & Masuk has Barlow). To me, Masuk's way of shutting down opposing offenses has been a little more impressive than NFI's goal scoring. We've seen NFI struggle against good teams (losing 6-2 to North Branford) and lose head scratches to teams that, on paper, they should beat (4-3 to Housy, 3-1 to Tri-Town). NFI is 5-2 over the past four years against Masuk, winning the most recent three meetings. I think this streak is broken. Masuk 3-2

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Elite Eight Predictions Week Five (1/14-20)

I am going to stick to the 8 games per week. If you would like a "Twitter Pick" tweet @cthshockey and I'll send you a pick there!

RECORD: 22-7-3   LAST WEEK: 6-1-1

Elite Predictions: Mark these on the calendar

1/14 Newington-Berlin @ EO Smith-Tolland 4:30 @ Uconn- Former D3 power vs. current D3 power. I'll probably regret it but I'm calling for an upset. Roll Bucks. Bucks 4-3
1/14 New Milford @ North Haven 4:30 @ Northford Ice Pavilion- This could be a pivotal D2 matchup in terms of seeding later on. I think New Milford is the more complete team right now. Wave 3-2
1/14 North Branford @ Cheshire 5:30 @ Wesleyan Ice Rink- Another great D2 tilt. This one is truly a toss up. NB has been fantastic to this point but after seeing both teams in person, Cheshire is the pick. Rams 4-2
1/14 Fairfield Prep @ West Haven 6:30 @ Bennett Rink- West Haven is playing very well and playing with a great level of intensity. They'll need that and more to beat the Jesuits. Prep is good this year, not as good as years past but still darn good. I don't think WH has the fire power to keep up. Prep 5-2
1/17 New Canaan @ Darien 4:00 @ Darien Ice Rink- Rivalry Saturday in Darien. The Wave have been crashing a bit of late and not looking like their early season selves while New Canaan has played good hockey of late. I'll go with the recent trend. Rams 2-1
1/17 Glastonbury @ East Catholic 7:00 @ Champions Skating Center- Glastonbury has been excellent this year out of the gate. East Catholic as come close to the big win a few times but hasn't been able to grab it. This is a great opportunity for them. However, I think Glastonbury takes it. Tomahawks 5-3
1/17 Masuk @ Trumbull 8:00 @ The Rinks At Shelton- Trumbull has lost their last four games by a total of 6 goals including three one goal heartbreakers to the likes of Darien, Greenwich, New Milford and North Haven. They are probably the states best 3-5 team. Masuk is one of the best D3 teams in the state. This should make for an exciting game. I hate to do it but I'm going to go with Masuk. Some would even consider it an upset. They just seem like a complete D3 team right now where Trumbull's frustrations could start to show. Panthers 3-2 
1/19 Notre Dame-West Haven @ Bishop Hendricken (RI) 4:00 @ Levy Rink- Great game when these two met last year. NDWH looked a lot different though for that one. The Knights have been playing better hockey of late and should keep this close but I think Bishop takes this one. BH 4-3

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Division 3: Better Late Than Never

With some teams playing a high of seven games so far and some playing a low of three games, the Division III playoff picture and contender list is slowly taking shape. Without receiving the same amount of feedback that I did for DI and DII, it would’ve been hard for me to do an adequate job covering each DIII team one by one, so in lieu of that, here is a recap of what’s taken place and who we should watch out for.

In my opinion, the DIII champion should, barring any major upsets, come out of the following four teams: Masuk, EO Smith-Tolland, NFI and Sheehan. Now, I am fully aware of the run Tri-Town went on last year as an #11 seed and the continued carousel that is the Division II state tournament but DIII traditionally places teams seeded #1-5 into the semi's. Masuk rolls into play Wednesday night against their first real competition, D2's New Milford. The Panthers are 3-0 and have been lead by senior Charlie Christo and juniors Elijah Begin and Brian Denham, all over a point a game at press time. Senior leader Shane Dushay has also continued to play steady hockey for the Panthers. But the big story is on the back end where senior Connor Muller has yet to let in a goal through three games for Masuk. EO Smith-Tolland likes to think they can counter that group quite nicely. After all, they sit at 4-1 with their lone loss coming in overtime to D2 power Suffield-Granby-WL. The Bucks haven't really been challenged outside of that game but have disposed of opponents the way you would expect a power like them to. They are doing this behind excellent goaltending from senior Matt Schoen and constant contributions from up and down the lineup, headed by senior Pete Meyer. NFI comes in at 5-1 and aside from an inexcusable loss to Housy, they've been good. NFI has six players averaging over a point a game and can truly beat any DIII team on any given night. They have had the propensity, however, to take games off and win narrowly over teams they should slaughter. Junior Christian Benzing leads all scorers with 11 points through six games with seniors Parker Evans, Andrew Rosenblum and Luke McFadden as well as juniors Liam Henderson and Peter Masi all tallying 8 or more points this year. In goal senior Marchello Carlucci has been strong to the tune of a 1.60 GAA. Finally, Sheehan. To me, Sheehan could be the odd man out of this group but it's hard to over look their offensive potential. Lead by seniors Mike Cerrotti and Dylan Beaudoin the Titans have the ability to score with the best of them. The Gozzo brothers Paul and Sal also bring a different dynamic to the team in terms of adding offensive and defensive depth. Sheehan is 3-0 but gets their first real test of the year when they head to face NFI tonight.
Masuk's Connor Muller has yet to allow a goal in 3 games.

One team that kept Sheehan at bay was NFA-St. Bernard-Bacon-Stonington-Lyman Memorial or as their quickly becoming known, the Red Hawks. At 3-4 this co-op which has had some parts move around is a competent competitor any given night. This was evident in wins over D2's BCR and Farmington Valley as well as tight losses to Staples and Sheehan. Senior Andrew Gagnon has been solid for the Red Hawks and is one of the state's hidden gems. I would label the Red Hawks as a "contender" only in the sense that they can contend to make the state semi's with an upset. There are a few others in this group and then there are a fair number of pretenders (see below). Staples-Weston-Shelton (4-2), Hall-Southington (3-4), Woodstock Academy (3-1), Tri-Town (2-3), Housy (2-3-1) and Westhill (2-1) all appear to have what it takes to take down one of the big four if they bring it. Staples is offensively gifted and can certainly stymy weaker teams like Wethersfield-RH-Midd when they play their game but when Staples has been faced with comparable offenses their defense has imploded. Just check out these goals against (9 in a loss to BCR, 5 in a loss to Westhill, 5 in an OT win over Woodstock.) Hall-Southington has gained quite the reputation of being really good one week and being really bad the next over the past couple seasons. They're at it again. They've blasted Tri-Town and BCR, narrowly beaten Wethersfield, lost to Farmington Valley in OT, by 8 goals to the Bucks and most recently 4-2 to a comparable Woodstock club. Consistency they do not have. What they do have is some talent, junior Jarod Florian and senior Jackson Maxwell are really good hockey players, as well as a tough side. No team is grittier or sandier than Hall-South, something that could help or possibly hurt the co-op. Woodstock is the darling of this group. They still have that new team smell. They seem to play for all the right reasons and have a school that seems to be rallying around their young program. Now, they've started to translate all those good feelings into wins. The Centaurs (cool mascot btw) are 3-1 with their lone loss coming in OT to Staples. Their top three scorers are all sophomores headed by Ryan Blacks 9 points through four games. Now, do I think this team has what it takes to win the DIII title? Nope. Do I think they can upset someone who has the chance to? Yup. Tri-Town is solely on this list because in a million years I didn't think they would be making a semi-final appearance last season so I'd be a fool to leave them off now. Plus, I think goalie Phil Nicolescu is the real deal and can steal some wins for them. Housatonic-NW-Wamogo is an interesting team. They're 2-3-1 but had enough gusto to be able to beat NFI, one of the division's best. Housy was really good last year playing the schedule they played. This year things are a bit more stuff sledding, but they're getting by. The last of this group is a team that is very intriguing to me each season. Westhill is 2-1 with their lone loss coming in a 2-0 Masuk shutout. Not bad against one of the DIII's top teams. The thing that always kills a FCIAC team like Westhill in terms of seeding is the amount of talented out of division teams they have to play. For instance, only six of Westhill's final 17 games will be against fellow DIII competitors. However, the flip side of that is, I'm not sure there will be a team more ready for state competition after that slate.
Billy Berry, Joel Barlow          photo: Rocco Paul Valluzzo
Then there are near half of the other DIII teams. Five of whom will make the state tournament in my estimation as seeds 12-16 while the other four won't. I think DIII is down more than ever this year, like DII and DI. However, it doesn't mean we won't have quite the show watching these clubs battle it out for those coveted final spots. Joel Barlow has put themselves in a good spot. They are 3-1 and have bona fide talent on their roster. They don't have much depth but players like Charlie and Billy Berry and Kyle Converse have this team thinking home ice if all pans out. The Eastern CT Eagles should already chalk this season up as a success. This is a team that was 2-58 over the last three years and they sit cozy at 3-3 right now after a 3-1 start. With some winnable games coming up, ECE could add on a couple more before this season is said and done. BBD is 1-5 with their lone win coming against NY's Byram Hills. There's not much positive to say about BBD. The IceCats are only two years removed from the SWC Final in Danbury where they lost to Watertown-Pomperaug. But, man, were they good that year. Since then, they have only won one game against CT competition, four total. Stamford sits at an unimpressive 2-4 and has a scary schedule coming up with the likes of Darien, St. Joe's, Greenwich, and Staples facing off. Norwalk-McMahon comes in at 1-3-1. The Bears missed out on the state tournament last season and with the parity in the bottom 10 of DIII this year, with a couple wins they could punch a ticket. Shepaug-Litchfield-Nonnewaug at 1-4 is really a surprise to this group for me. They snuck into the tourney last year with 5 wins but returned a ton of talent in forwards Christian Stuart and Andrew Loya. Pair that with the emergence of sophomore Riley Baker and one would think this co-op would be doing well. The defending state champs find themselves on this list simply because of all that they lost. Newtown is 1-3 with their lone win coming in overtime against the Eastern CT Eagles. They lost badly to DIII powers NFI and Sheehan and in overtime to fellow cellar dweller Stamford. The Nighthawks are well coached and returned some key players so their ascent from these depths is more likely than some but they would need to change a lot of what's currently going on. Finally, our two winless clubs get a mention with Wethersfield-Midd-RH (0-5) and Lyman Hall-HK-Cog (0-3) bringing up the rear. Both have shown glimpses of hope. Wethersfield recently only lost to Newington-Berlin 4-0 and lost in OT to Hall-Southington while LHK-Cog lost 3-2 to NFI in their best game of the year only to fall 9-0 to the same club the next time out.  A lot of work is needed for both of these teams to breathe a chance at the final 16 at this point.

So where does that leave us? I think tonight's NFI/Sheehan game is a good measuring stick. I think Masuk and EO Smith-Tolland are probably the best two teams in terms of talent but that doesn't always equate to a championship. I appreciate those who got me team by team previews in. You're contributions make this worthwhile, it just didn't seem right to me to have some teams previewed and not all. So there it is, have at it. You all may not like it, but at least it's honest. 

Eight Elite Predictions Week Four (1/7-13)

I am going to stick to the 8 games per week. If you would like a "Twitter Pick" tweet @cthshockey and I'll send you a pick there!

RECORD: 16-6-2   LAST WEEK: 5-3

Elite Predictions: Mark these on the calendar

1/7 Daniel Hand @ Cheshire 4:00 @ Wesleyan Ice Rink- Both teams have been a little hit or miss this year. Both have notched wins over comparable opponent Northwest Catholic but both have lost badly to teams that in my estimation are only marginally better than them. Early start, I'll give it to the home time. Cheshire 3-2

1/7 North Haven @ East Haven 6:00 @ DiLungo Ice Rink- This should be a good one out of DiLungo. East Haven is coming off a tough loss to rival West Haven where North Haven needed a last second goal to get past pesky Trumbull. I think East Haven has lost a lot while North Haven is the more complete team. I'll keep picking them until I'm finally right. North Haven 4-2

1/7 North Branford @ Amity 6:30 @ Bennett Rink- Amity only has one win this year over hapless Guilford. North Branford's only blemish came in overtime against a Fairfield squad who handled Amity pretty easily. I thought Amity would be a bit stronger this year and I think they still can be, but as of now I think the T-Birds are one of the top dogs in D2. North Branford 5-2

1/7 Sheehan @ NFI 7:30 @ Danbury Ice Arena- This is a solid measuring stick game for both D3 programs. As of now, I'd say there are about four D3 teams that should compete for a title, these are two of them. NFI just seems a little scarier right now. If Sheehan can keeps pucks away from the net, they could take this one but I don't see it happening. NFI 3-2

1/7 Masuk @ New Milford 7:45 @ Canterbury Ice Rink- This is a good test for Masuk and a scary game for New Milford. Masuk is among the D3's elite, a group of teams that I think can match up fairly evenly among the middle of the D2 pack, right about where New Milford resides. I think the Wave take it, they should, but I wouldn't be surprised is Masuk beat just about any D2 team. New Milford 4-3

1/10 West Haven @ Hamden 2:30 @ Lou Astorino Rink- Age old rivalry as the Lou on Saturday where two hot teams face off. Hamden is one of the hottest teams in the state running off three straight since losing opening night to Darien. West Haven has also won three in a row since opening the season 0-2. I think Hamden's offensive pop and neutral zone play will be strong enough to beat West Haven. Westie goalie Mike Savino will be an ex factor in this one, however. If he's on, Blue Devils could take it. Hamden 5-3

1/10 East Catholic @ Northwest Catholic 7:25 @ ISCC- Another rivalry game drops at the ISCC Saturday night. Neither team has really had the start they envisioned this year with NWC sitting at 3-4 with a quality win over Glastonbury and East Catholic at 1-2 with their lone win coming over Cheshire. I think NWC is a little more battle tested right now but I don't have much faith in either club right now. The coin lands heads. NWC 4-3

1/12 Darien @ Ridgefield 6:30 @ Winter Garden Ice Arena- FCIAC rivalry on a Monday... gotta love it! Both teams are coming off tough losses, Darien to NDWH and Ridgefield to Glastonbury. Both losses could be considered upsets but the way things are going in D1, nothing surprises me any more. I'll go with Darien to get back on the horse. Darien 3-2

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Elite Eight Predictions Week Three (12/31-1/6)

I am going to stick to the 8 games per week. If you would like a "Twitter Pick" tweet @cthshockey and I'll send you a pick there!

RECORD: 11-3-2   LAST WEEK: 5-2-1

Elite Predictions: Mark these on the calendar

1/3 Simsbury @ Conard 1:00 @ Veteran's Memorial Rink- The Conard Chieftains were the darlings of the early season, jumping out to a 3-0 record after winning only 4 total last year. They were given a reality check in a 6-2 loss to Glastonbury. Bouncing back is vital during this short season and they get a chance against another D1 foe in Simsbury. The Trojans are coming off a tough 3-2 loss to NDWH, a game that could've easily shifted in their favor. I like both of these teams this year as surprise/upset caliber teams on any given night. I think D1 prevails over D2 in this one, however. Trojans 4-2

1/3 Fairfield Prep @ NDWH 1:00 @ Bennett Rink- Considered best rivalry in the state for years. With NDWH in a somewhat of a transition year, this year's could have a different feel. Prep retooled and reloaded again. NDWH will need top talents like Alec Andreucci and Joe Ansaldo to provide a spark but it may not be enough. I'll take Prep. Jesuits 5-2

1/3 Fairfield Co-op @ North Branford 2:00 @ Northford Ice Pavilion- North Branford has been downright scary to start while Fairfield has rebounded nicely winning two since their opening night loss to Branford. This year's Mustangs squad has a little of that under the radar feel that the state champ team had. Maybe in the end it'll work out similarly for them but for now, they're not in the same league as North Branford. T-Birds 6-4

1/3 St. Joseph @ Hamden 2:30 @ Lou Astorino Rink- Remember Hamden's start last year? 2-0 with wins over Darien and New Canaan and a #1 ranking in the CTHSHockey D1 Top 10. They're off to a good start this year as well, 2-1 with wins over New Canaan and Winchester (MA) and a lone loss to Darien. This is where we see if Hamden has taken that next step and continue to have success throughout the year and win games that they should. St Joe's seems improved since last season but still seems like a bottom tier D1 team after shutout losses to Xavier and Greenwich. Hamden should win. Dragons 5-3

1/3 Xavier @ Greenwich 6:30 @ Dorothy Hamill Ice Rink- Greenwich has been a fun story to cover this year. They're 4-0 and have only allowed four goals against all year. Xavier is an interesting team. They couldn't manage much offense to start the year but have scored 11 in their last two games, wins over St. Joe's and East Catholic. I'm going to go with the better defensive team in this one and take Greenwich. Cardinals 3-1

1/3 Masuk @ Westhill 8:30 @ Terry Connors Rink- This is an intriguing D3 game. On one hand you have a perennial power in Masuk who is ripe to win the whole thing this year after matching 6-0 wins over overmatched BBD and Stamford. On the other hand you have another 2-0 team in Westhill. The Vikings won convincingly over Staples their last time out and snuck out a 5-4 win over D2's Fermi to start the year. It's a small sample size but Westhill is a good team. This one could be close but it's really a chance for Masuk to show the dominant power many think they are. I think they win, but I like Westhill to battle and keep it close. Panthers 4-2

1/5 North Haven @ Northwest Catholic 4:40 @ ISCC- At 0-2-1 North Haven isn't off to the start they wanted but there is hope. The Indians are a good hockey team with a strong senior leader in net. They've lost both tries at D1 teams so far this year and will get another shot with Northwest Catholic, a team who's already lost twice this year to D2 opponents. Something has got to give and I'm calling for an upset. North Haven 5-4

1/6 Fairfield Prep @ ND Fairfield 5:30 @ Webster Bank Arena- The battle for Fairfield is taking place at NDF's new home barn ;). At press time, the Lancers are prepping to face Massachusetts powerhouse BC High in the championship of their tourney. A win over BC High would probably be the most impressive thing any team in this state will do this year. That said, I don't see it happening, I hope it does, but I don't see it. Talent against talent up front these teams are more even than some would think. It's the back end and in net that I think the Jesuits have a decided advantage. Prep 5-3

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Eight Elite Predictions Week Two (12/26-30)

By: Luke Devoe

With Northwest Catholic's "upset" over Glastonbury, my undefeated week was lost on Tuesday. Let's see how it goes this week.I  am going to stick to the 8 games per week. If you would like a "Twitter Pick" tweet @cthshockey and I'll send you a pick there!

RECORD: 6-1-1   LAST WEEK: 6-1-1

Elite Predictions: Mark these on the calendar

12/26 Cheshire vs. New Milford (WH Xmas Tourney DII Final) 2:00 @ Bennett Rink- This should prove to be a competitive final. New Milford has scored 13 goals in two games this year but Guilford and Newtown both seem to be having very down years. Cheshire rebounded from a tough opening night loss to top Amity to reach this final. I'm really torn on this one, but I'm going to go with Cheshire. Rams 3-2

12/26 Darien @ New Canaan 2:00 @ Darien Ice Rink- Gotta love rivalry matchups. Darien plays their yearly "road game" at their home rink. New Canaan, after beating NDWH in OT on opening night has lost two straight to Hamden and Greenwich. Darien meanwhile sits unblemished and coming off a huge win over Prep. Darien keeps rolling... Wave 4-2

12/27 Daniel Hand @ Branford 8:15 @ Northford Ice Pavilion- This matchup features my #1 and #2 teams in this week's D2 Top 10. These SCC powers have both gotten off to good starts. In a game like this it's nice to rely on a proven net minder. I'll go with Brink and Branford. Hornets 3-2

12/29 North Haven @ St. Joseph 8:00 @ The Rinks at Shelton- North Haven has proven they can go toe to toe with a solid D1 team, losing to Simsbury 6-5. St. Joseph has a very hard luck 0-1-1 record, losing to NDF 3-2 and tying NDWH. This should be a good one but I'll go with St. Joe's on home ice. Cadets 5-4

12/30 Staples-Weston-Shelton @ Woodstock Academy 2:00 @ Jahn Hockey Rink- Pomfret School- Woodstock took down Tri-Town in their season opener and seems to be having a lot of fun playing hockey which is why I want to pick them here. I just don't know much about them given their limited sample size. Staples, on the other hand, put up 8 goals against D2's BCR and then went on to beat NFA and most recently Wethersfield-RH-Midd in blowout fashion. My head is picking Staples, my heart is picking Woodstock. I'm a romantic. Centaurs 5-3

12/30 Simsbury @ NDWH 4:00 @ Bennett Rink- At press time NDWH is a lackluster, for their standards, 1-1-1. They'll come in after a battle with Ridgefield on Saturday, so who really knows what club Simsbury will be getting. The fact is Simsbury has been good, undefeated so far, and eager to play one of the "big boys." But they can't afford to overlook NWC on Saturday either. NDWH is good. Their even better at Bennett. I can see Simsbury pulling the upset but I'm going with NDWH. Knights 3-1

12/30 East Catholic @ Xavier 4:00 @ Wesleyan College- Xavier is really having a tough time putting the puck in the net (2 goals through 3 games). East Catholic has only played one game as of press time and gave up 5 goals to a good NDF team. I'm going to go with East Catholic in this one simply because of Xavier's ineptitude when it comes to scoring goals. Eagles 4-1

12/30 Glastonbury @ Conard 8:00 @ Veteran's Memorial-  Conard has been a fun story on the young season so far. They have blown out and I mean blown out two teams that were really good a year ago and were supposed to be pretty good this year. They will have played BCR before this one but not much seems to be slowing down the Chieftain train. Glastonbury seemed to be rolling to but are having trouble scoring goals and most recently lost to Northwest Catholic, a team who Conard beat 5-1. I'm not going to start doing the "they beat them, so that means they'll beat them" comparison. In fact, I'm going to do the opposite. Glastonbury wins. Tomahawks 3-2

Friday, December 19, 2014

Division II Preseason Team Capsules

DIVISION I (2013-14 record; tournament result)

Amity (13-7-0; Lost in the Division II State Championship to Daniel Hand)
Key Losses: Johnny Uscilla, Adam Shea, Brett McNeil, Keating Seymour, Brian Mosher
Key Returners: Sr. Kevin Ryan, F; Sr. Zach Shelnitz, D; Sr. Dalton Luciani, D; Sr. Tim Johnston, F; Jr. Anthony Uscilla, D; So. Tyler Johnston, G
New Blood: Fr. Tyler Cole, G
Outlook: Lindgren returns to a fresh faced group headed by Kevin Ryan, whose experience on the top line in Keating Seymour’s absence last year should help him big time. They’ve lost a lot (top 3 scorers) and their starting goalie in Brian Mosher. Only time will tell with these Spartans. Zach Shelnitz and Dalton Luciani head a D core that should be one of Amity’s strong suits this year.

Branford (15-4-1; Lost in the Division II Quarterfinals to Milford)
Key Losses: Tyler Hackett, Tony Pascale, Jason Vitale, Robert Denhardt, Tyler Martin
Key Returners: Sr. Tyler Criscuolo, F; Sr. AJ Brink, G; So. Zach Withington, F, Sr. Cooper Bunton, F; Sr. Jack Murray, D; Sr. Pat Cunningham, D; Sr. Aidan Deane
New Blood:
Outlook: Branford seemed primed last season to take the DII tournament by storm only to get upset by Milford in the quarters. The loss of graduated seniors and Tyler Hackett will hurt but there’s no debating the fact that AJ Brink is one of, if not the best goalie at the DII level. He can carry this defensive deep squad. If Criscuolo can stay healthy Branford can be scary good.

Cheshire (10-9-1; Lost in the Division II Quarterfinals to East Catholic)
Key Losses: Luke Vendetto, Joey D’Errico, Matt Vallilo, Greg Zovas, Joey Solla
Key Returners: Sr. Matt Jordan, F; Sr. Ben Klanica, F; Sr. Kyle Frederick, F; Sr. Tommy Sokoloff, D; So. Matt Federico, F; Jr. Jake Verneris, G
New Blood: So. Billy McKinley; So. Vinny Solla
Outlook: Rams have fire power back and Karl Sundquist did a nice job over the years getting Verneris work in net, priming him for a successful junior campaign. Watch out for these guys. Losing Vendetto and company certainly won’t be easy to get over but Matt Jordan and Ben Klanica have the ability to take over games offensively. Watch out for the Rams especially with full year talent like McKinley and Solla joining the fray.

Conard (4-16-0; did not qualify)
Key Losses: Quinn Lacroix, Luke Haggerty
Key Returners: Sr. Jake Reynolds, D; Jr. Grayson Lacroix, F; Sr. Mark Ehnot, F; Sr. PJ Melly, D; So. Declan Flaherty; Jr. Matt McCormick, F; Jr. Jordan Fongmie, F; So. Zander Khan, G
New Blood: Fr. Paul Wilson; Fr. Zack Polo
Outlook: Conard will be better this year. They return a solid group of forwards that should be able to put the puck in the net and with the evening out of talent at the DII level, there won’t be many teams that should be heavily favored over them. Grayson Lacroix is a blooming star up front while seniors Jake Reynolds and PJ Melly should do enough to fasten down the back end. Zander Khan is back and after a years experience should be comfortable in net. I’m going to go out on a limb and say that Conard is a tournament team this year. I’m not saying they’re a favorite or will even get home ice, I just think they’ve grown enough to join the discussion.

Daniel Hand (10-10-0; Won the Division II State Championship)
Key Losses: Ben Solin, Chase Briggs, Dan Braumann, Dan Healey, Mike Belliveau
Key Returners: Sr. Andrew Rossi, D; Sr. Andrew Banasiak, D; Sr. Connor Bell, F; Jr. Luke Brown, F; Jr. Jeff Rider, D; Jr. Cole Sarna, G
New Blood: Fr. Paul Gagliardi, D; So. Robert Smith, G
Outlook: Well here is a positive… Ken Mitchell returns for his second year at the helm. This is the first time a coach has returned after their first year at Hand in four years.  The reality is he has set the bar pretty high after winning a state title with a .500 team in his first year there. Also, the Tigers only return five players who saw action in the championship game. That could be scary. We will see growing pains for sure, but they shocked everyone last year meaning we can’t count them out.

East Haven (16-4-0; lost in the Division I Quarterfinals to ND Fairfield)
Key Losses: Mike Falanga, Tristan Goodwin, Matt Longobardi, Jake DelGuidice, Tom Delucia, Dylan Butler
Key Returners: Sr. Devan Avena, G; Jr. Anthony Avallone, F; Sr. Tyler Moss, F; Sr. Mike Montesanto, D; Jr. Nick Latella, D; So. Peter Capone, F; So. Matt Latella, F
New Blood:
Outlook: Talk about a new look squad. Just about 90% of the Easties offensive production is gone. They have a new goalie, new top D pairings and a new division. The latter is probably the most relevant. Would East Haven be able to compete at the DI level with the loss of their top line of Falanga, Goodwin and Longobardi? No. But they should be scrappy enough to be able to scratch out enough wins to be towards the top of DII. Time will tell with the Jackets but there is some intriguing young talent on this team that could shine at a DII level.

Farmington Valley (4-16-0; did not qualify)
Key Losses: Nick Sanderson, Eric Welles, Dan Rider, Jack Wendler
Key Returners: Sr. Michael Arciero, F; Sr. Alden Piper, D; Sr. Jim McAuliffe, F; Sr. Tom McAuliffe, G; Sr. Kyle Sopelak, F
New Blood:
Outlook: After a 2-1 start last year the Generals thought they would be certainly locking up a playoff bid. That didn’t happen, they only won two more games the rest of the way (both against RMR) and endured an 11 game losing streak. With a strong group of seniors this year the team should improve slightly from a four win team a year ago. I only see a slight improvement, however.

Fairfield Co-op (7-13-0; lost in the Division II First Round to Amity)
Key Losses: Conor Scharlop, Jack O’Rourke, Austin Armas
Key Returners: Sr. Kyle Greenhut, G; Jr. Mike Grace, G; Sr. Zach Weinstein, D; Sr. Wade Petro, D; Jr. Charlie Pipper, D; Sr. Trevor Demilt, F; Sr. Matt Roberts, F; Jr. Owen Emmendorfer, F; Jr. Kevin Boldrighini, F
New Blood: Jr. Jake Fuss
Outlook: Fairfield brings in a new coach and new attitude to this season. Tom Roche (former North Haven coach) comes in and the Mustangs are eager to erase last season’s less than stellar taste in their mouth. They bring back strong goaltending in Greenhut and Grace as well as an elite D-core led by Zach Weinstein. On offense newcomer Jake Fuss could immediately be impactful and help out returning leading goal scorer Trevor Demilt. I think Fairfield will definitely improve on last year, how much remains to be seen.

Fermi-Enfield (6-13-1; lost in the Division II First Round to Branford)
Key Losses: Matt Boulette, Marc Richard, Nathan Marin, Jacob Quinn, Matt Roy
Key Returners: Jr. Sam Roy, G; Sr. Brian Riley, F; Sr. Ryan Gothers, D; Sr. Troy Martin, D
New Blood:
Outlook: Moving to the CCC South will at least on the surface help a team like Fermi-Enfield. But they will need to put the puck in the net and at the onset the loss of a player like Matt Boulette could be hard to replace. We know they are going to be defensively sound with Roy in net and Martin and Gothers on the back end but there will need to be contributions offensively from up and down the lineup if Fermi is going to be successful. They should improve on their 6 win season from a year ago simply because of their divisional move.

Guilford (5-15-0; did not qualify)
Key Losses: Will Dacey, Evan Powell, Carson Sperry
Key Returners: Jr. Stephen Thibault, F; Jr. Chris Cafiero, F; Sr. Jack Petrick, F; Sr. Kevin Gaudio, F; Sr. Ryan Brand, D; Jr. Matt Clifford, D; So. Kyle Dwyer, G
New Blood:
Outlook: Guilford should be improved. They return a top line of Thibault, Cafiero and Petrick as well as a goalie with a season under his belt. Do I think Guilford will contend for a DII title? No, but they won’t be missing out on the tournament again this year especially if Clifford, Brand and the rest of the D in front of Dwyer are strong.

Milford (11-8-1; lost in the Division II Semifinals to Amity)
Key Losses: Zach White, Will Vitelli, Ben Lavallee, Noah Ericson, John DePalma
Key Returners: Sr. Jarod Butts, D; Sr. Jonathan Depascale, D; Sr. David McLenithan, D; So. Andrew Gobany, F; Jr. Brandon Argyros, F; Sr. Brady Denigan, F
New Blood: Sr. Sean Rowland, G
Outlook: Milford will rely on some younger bodies to provide the offense this year with the graduation of all everything forward Zach White and perfect counter balance players Ben Lavallee and Will Vitelli. Look for Gobany to have a great second year. It’s never a bad thing to lean on senior defense and that’s just what the Indians have. One of the unknowns resides in Milford’s crease where NDF transfer goalie Sean Rowland takes over for DePalma and Ericson. Milford will have solid year with emerging stars in Gobany and Brandon Argyros.

New Milford (14-5-1; lost in the Division II Quarterfinals to Amity)
Key Losses: Steven Berry, Cole Case, Harrison O’Connell, Nick Capriglione
Key Returners: Sr. Jameson Steinhardt, D; Sr. Thomas Nisco, F; Sr. Logan Doud, F; Sr. Blaine McMahon; So. Payton Meyer
New Blood: Jr. Alex Fortuna, G, Fr. Nate Capriglione, F
Outlook: New Milford brings in a new coach this season, Scott Capriglione. If that name sounds familiar, he’s the father of last year’s goalie Nick. Capriglione played high school/college hockey in Minnesota and has coached in the area for a number of years. This is all well and good but he inherits a team that has lost a lot of fire power with Berry, Case and O’Connell all gone. Defensively the Wave should be sound and freshman Nate Capriglione could be very good. They will certainly have a new look this year, but should still be able to do enough to make states.

Newington-Berlin (16-3-1; lost in the Division II First Round to Daniel Hand)
Key Losses: Dan Roberts, Mike Davies, Tyler Mangiafico, Matt Harackiewicz, Kevin Landau
Key Returners: Sr. Dante Gugliotti, F; Sr. Marco DiPaola, F; Jr. Luca DiPaola, F; Sr. Mitch Pitkin; Jr. Aaron Lassen; Sr. Cam Criniti, G
New Blood: So. Alex Borselle, F; So. Paul Ciarcia, F
Outlook: Newington-Berlin certainly underachieved last year. A #4 overall seed in the Division II state tournament only to fall in the first round. The only thing that justified the lost was Daniel Hand running the table and eventually winning the whole thing. This year they should have some unfinished business on their mind. Sr. Cam Criniti will be in net and should be strong after a solid junior year. Senior forward Dante Gugliotti is one of the best at the DII level and is ready along with the DiPaola brothers to step out of the Dan Roberts, BJ Richard shadow. The Indians will be good yet again but will need to prove themselves at the DII level in the tourney.

North Branford (10-10-0; lost in the Division II First Round to North Haven)
Key Losses: Nick Johnson, Brendan Appi
Key Returners: So. Will McEwan, G; Sr. Alec Martone, F; Sr. Jordan Glenn; So. Brian McKee, F; Jr. Adam Burkle, F; Jr. Tanner Opie
New Blood: Sr. Chris Russo, D (Wolfpack)
Outlook: The T-Birds really didn’t lose a heck of a lot. This bodes well for them this year in a pretty dismantled DII field. They return a ton of depth with players like captains Alec Martone and Jordan Glenn. But they’re also very young with a bevy of underclassmen ready to step their game up on the big stage. We should definitely see a jump up from their 10 wins of a year ago especially with their competitive goaltender group headed by sophomore Will McEwan. If he falters Will Burke or even Tyler Odice are ready to jump in. Look for the T-Birds to do some damage this year.

North Haven (12-5-3; lost in the Division II Quarterfinals to Daniel Hand)
Key Losses: Chris Lion, Matt Bogart, Kyle VanBramer, Vin Fasulo, Joe D’Amico, Phil Gauvin, Mike Tantorski, Mike Hribko
Key Returners: Sr. Cam Owens, F; Sr. Tyler Luedee, F; Jr. Josh Back, D; Sr. Andrew Graziano, G
New Blood:
Outlook: Losing a player the caliber of Vin Fasulo definitely hurts North Haven’s chances but the Indians have never been a group solely relying on one player’s production. Add to that new coach Mike Silengo and the Indians may be ready for a new start or new approach. The steady net presence of Andrew Graziano is something that, if North Haven is to be successful, will be key. Like last year in a 12 win season, North Haven will be in the mix towards the end at the DII level, I’m just not sure they have enough pieces to be the last one standing at the end.

Bolton-Coventry-Rockville-RHAM (17-2-1; lost in the Division II First Round to New Milford)
Key Losses: Liam McGrath, Kevin Morton, Eddie Bates, Mason Madison, Hunter Byram, Nate Tonzi
Key Returners: Jr. Paul Bates, F; Jr. Calvin Tonzi, D; Jr. Connor McGrath, G; Sr. Scott Mocko, F; Jr. Ben Lavasseur, D
New Blood: So. Connor Morton, F
Outlook: BCR put together a 17 win season last year to only fall to a more battle tested New Milford squad in the first round.  Simply the seeding and 17 wins were mainly accrued due to a lighter schedule. This year’s schedule is very similar with 11 games against DIII opponents. This co-op will need to stack up wins there because they lost a ton of offensive depth. Paul Bates, Calvin Tonzi and sophomore Connor Morton will be able to put the puck in the net but it’ll be important for them to find other scoring options. If they don’t it could be a long year for BCR.

Suffield-Granby-Windsor Locks (14-5-1; lost in the Division II First Round to Cheshire)
Key Losses: Max Marson, Marc Adams,
Key Returners: Sr. Jake King, F; So. Jake Bourdeau, F; Jr. Colin MacDougald, F; Jr. Dan Bahl, F; So. Austin Rupp, F; So. Brendan Looney, F; Sr. Shane Kertanis, G; So. Craig Montemerlo, D; So. Vinny Breda, D; Sr. Austin Adams
New Blood:
Outlook: SGWL comes back loaded. Not only do they return all DII player Jake King, they return a stockpile of underclassmen talent like Jake Bourdeau, Austin Rupp, Colin MacDougald, Brendan Looney and Dan Bahl. They are strong on defense and return one of DII’s best goalies in senior Shane Kertanis. All the pieces are there for Nick Boorman’s club. They will play six games against Division I competition and look to be the easy favorite in the brand spankin new Nutmeg Hockey Conference (Woodstock Academy, Tri-Town, NFA-St. B’s, Eastern CT Eagles, Housy).

Trinity Catholic (14-5-1; lost in the Division II First Round to Milford)
Key Losses: Drew Scanlan, Will Egan, Colin Bernard (Brunswick), Kyle Odierno (Oilers), Eryk Wielgos (Oilers)
Key Returners: Sr. PJ Duddie, G; Sr. Griffin Northrop, F; Sr. Matt Carlson, Sr. Joey Nelson, Jr. Jordan Skiba; So. Quinn Thompson; So. Liam Shanahan
New Blood: Jr. Daniel Bernard; Fr. Kyle Bernard
Outlook: Trinity Catholic brings in an electric and dynamic new coach in 24 year old Jonny Chiapperino. Chiapperino brings a lot of hockey experience despite his young age playing overseas in Finland and Switzerland. This experience will hopefully help him early because he’s going to need it. The Crusaders’ losses are large with three talented underclassmen leaving early for prep and junior hockey. TC does return a competent group of senior skaters headed by the talented Griffin Northrop. Along with Northrop Chiapperino will lean on seniors Matt Carlson and Joey Nelson to bolster that top line. There are many new faces on this club this year and repeating last year’s 14 win season could be tough. However, I think Chiapperino will have this group ready to compete each night and ride senior PJ Duddie, often in Kyle Odierno’s shadow, to success.

Trumbull (4-16-0; did not qualify)
Key Losses: Alex Pierne
Key Returners: Sr. Sam Watson, D; Sr. Jake Crowe, D; Sr. Nick Cirino; Sr. Matt Sarosky, F; Sr. Mike Cullen, F; So. Brady Jensen, F; Sr. Francis Fromageot, G; So. Will Guttman, G
New Blood:
Outlook: Trumbull had a rough year last year, not qualifying for the state tournament only two years removed from winning the whole thing. They didn’t lose much, however. They return a big group of seniors who are hungry and willing to do the small things to be able to win. I think they’ll be especially strong on defense led by Sam Watson and Jake Crowe. Expect senior Francis Fromageot to get most of the starts in net but if he slips up sophomore Will Guttman will be ready to take over.

Watertown-Pomperaug (5-14-1; did not qualify)
Key Losses: Jon Manzer, Seamus Conway,
Key Returners: Jr. Brian Manzer; Sr. Mike Foschi; Sr. Ray Borsari; Sr. Carl LaRosa, G
New Blood: So. Ryan Dunfee; So. Peter Jorgensen
Outlook: We’re not that far removed from Watertown-Pomperaug being a serious force in the SWC. I mean, back in March of 2013 they won the title beating BBD convincingly at the Danbury Ice Arena. Times have changed for the team with the sweet orange and black take on the Blackhawks logo. This year, though, they have to improve on last year’s 5-14-1 finish, don’t they? They should. Senior goalie Carl LaRosa could be a difference for the co-op while leaders like Brian Manzer and Mike Foschi need to take control of this young inexperienced team. I do not see WP reaching the tourney with how things currently are but they are on the brink of starting to creep back to relevance.

Wilton (5-12-3; lost in the Division II First Round to East Catholic)
Key Losses: Joe Cullinan, Josh Worley, Christian Hansson (out for year, injury), Derek Prario
Key Returners: Sr. Kyle Jonas, F; Sr. Jameson Hill, D; Sr. David Craven, F; Sr. Mark Donahue, D; Sr. Luke Rizzo, F; Sr. Edward Zawislak, F; Sr. Kyle Buckley, G
New Blood: Fr. John Fung, F

Outlook: Wilton crawled into the postseason last year with a 5-12-3 overall record only to get throttled by East Catholic in the first round. This year the team returns a ton of experience with 12 seniors on the roster including new netminder Kyle Buckley who will take over for the graduated Derek Prario. They will be without the services of senior Christian Hansson who’s out for the year with a torn ACL. Kyle Jonas and David Craven will be looked upon to provide the bulk of the scoring while the back end will be protected by seniors Jameson Hill and Mark Donahue. While I think you can’t replace what a player like Joey Cullinan brought to the ice and the locker room, I think Wilton will improve this year. You can’t go wrong with that much senior leadership right?