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Friday, March 16, 2012

Championship Preview

By: Luke Devoe

Branford's Rob Celentano
It all comes down to this.  Six teams remain vying for three titles.  It all pops off tonight at Ingalls where the Division II Championship will take place between two rather unlikely candidates.  The #5 Trumbull Golden Eagles take on the #7 Branford Hornets in a battle of 14-9-0 teams.  Their roads to the championship were very similar as they've both had to top two teams ranked higher than them.  After advancing past #12 Watertown-Pomperaug rather easily with a 6-0 win in the first round, the Eagles took on a quality #4 Wilton squad in the quarterfinals.  They disposed of them with a 4-2 victory at the Wonderland propelling them on to Ingalls and the semi's where they would meet the #1 seed and favorite Guilford Indians.  They jumped out to a 3-0 lead over the top seeded Indians and never looked back in route to a 7-3 victory on the wings of a hat trick from senior Mike Ahearn.  They will take on a battle tested Branford squad who's already knocked off some impressive foes.  In the first round, Branford took care of #10 Staples-Weston-Shelton 4-3 and headed on to the quarters to take on #2 Hand of Madison, some people's favorite to win the DII Championship and a team the Hornets had just beaten in overtime in the SCC Division II Championship 3-1.  There, the Hornets on goals from the Hackett brothers were able to beat the Tigers again with an identical 3-1 score.  In the second of the two semifinals, the Hornets were able to leap another higher seeded team in #3 North Branford.  Two goals nights from Rob Celentano and Tony Pascale as well as three goals just over one minute apart sent the Hornets into the finals with a 5-3 win over the Thunderbirds.  The Hornets are battle tested after playing a rigorous slate in the vaunted SCC and have proven scorers in Rob Celentano and a host of others.  The Golden Eagles have already tackled the beast known as the Guilford Indians and are primed to beat the Hornets tonight.  The two teams battled in a 7-6 overtime thriller back on New Year's Eve, a game that the Eagles ended up winning and fans should expect the same type of fire power tonight.  I'll go with a little bit of an upset pick and choose the Branford Hornets to win tonight 5-3.

Newington-Berlin hopes to be celebrating Saturday.
Hatchets, tomahawks and political incorrectness will be in abundance tomorrow morning at 10 when the #1 Newington-Berlin Indians take on the #3 Northwest Catholic Indians at Ingalls.  This is just about the only division where the final is quite climactic and top ranked teams will be, in fact,  gracing the locker rooms giving the fans the finals they envisioned when looking at incomplete brackets three weeks ago.  Newington-Berlin has to be the overwhelming favorite after disposing of a lesser #4 NFA-St. Bernard-Bacon club on Tuesday night in the semi-finals 4-1.  In the win, senior Nick Briganti tallied a helper on all four goals while senior Brandon Ralph added two goals to lead these Indians to victory.  NB got a scare in the DIII quarters when #8 Rockville-Manchester-Stafford forced them to overtime where Newington-Berlin would eventually win 5-4 thanks in large part to a four goal outing from the goldie-locked Brendon Richard.  Northwest Catholic arrives Sunday after a hard fought 4-3 win over a pesky #2 Brookfield-Bethel-Danbury club.  In the win they received goals from Jeff Greenwood, Patrick Melanson, Tanner Vaughn and Demitri Yao.  Before the semi's, NW Catholic disposed of #6 Bolton-Coventry-Lyman Memorial easily with a 7-0 score behind four goals from Melanson.  The two teams met in mid january with Newington-Berlin winning quite easily 6-3.  NB has won 21 straight games since opening the season 1-2 while NW Catholic has an impressive 19-4 mark that they bring into the championship but I don't think that'll be enough.  Newington-Berlin gets scoring from everywhere and also lays claim to junior Drew O'Leary and his microscopic goals against average.  I'll take Newington-Berlin in a 4-3 affair over Northwest Catholic.

Eddie Sherman celebrating his goal Wednesday.
Finally, a team that many had pegged as finalists before the tournament began takes on a team no one gave a chance to appear in the championship.  The #2 Notre Dame-West Haven Green Knights take on the #4 Glastonbury Tomahawks in what should be a fast paced, high flying affair as some of the state's most skilled offensive players will take the ice at 2 p.m. at Ingalls.  The Green Knights of Notre Dame-West Haven have had a great season and being where they are now, is no surprise.  They coasted to victory over #15 Cheshire in the first round, came back from the dead down 2-0 in the third against #10 South Windsor to win 4-2 in the quarterfinals and dismantled their dreaded rivals, the #6 West Haven Blue Devils 6-2 Wednesday night in the semis on the backs of six different goal scorers, including some grinders like seniors Eddie Sherman and Jeff Bausch and junior Kyle Thibault.  This scoring shows the Knights' depth and should prove worrisome for the Tomahawks.  I have written in great detail about the top line of senior captain Colby Cretella, junior Greg Zullo and sophomore Billy Vizzo but in Vizzo's return, the line was not paired together, probably a precaution for Vizzo just getting back.  Instead, Derosa opted to go with Alex Esposito on the top line with Cretella and Zullo and this paid off with the sophomore tallying a goal and playing one of his most complete games all year.  The ability to get secondary scoring for the Knights will prove to be key in topping the Tomahawks, a team who beat the mighty #1 Fairfield Prep Jesuits on the backs of seniors Dave Mozzer, Aaron Mandell and Ethan Holdaway.  The Tomahawks crushed #13 Simsbury in the first round to move on to face a #5 Darien team that many believed would cruise to take on Prep in the semi's.  The Tomahawks put an end to that claim with a convincing 3-2 quarterfinal victory.  On Wednesday, the Tomahawks jumped out to a huge 4-1 lead over Prep at the end of two periods on the heels of two goals from Mandell.  The Tomahawks then held a considerable 5-2 lead late in the third until Prep defenseman Sean Henry netted a pair of goals to make things very interesting.  However, the Tomahawks held on and scored the biggest upset victory in recent Division I tournament history.  In the win and through the course of the tournament junior goalie Chase Gabor was excellent.  
Glastonbury's Gabor.
He'll need to be as Notre Dame can bring the offense.  In the end, I think your Division I state champion will be Notre Dame-West Haven.  They are too deep, too talented and too hungry after being denied a state title birth since 2004.  We'll go 4-2 on an empty netter. 

1 comment:

  1. I understand that the pick of NDWH is a pick based on team strength but at this point in the season its easy to see that has nothing to do with it. at least this year. Ridgefield lost to west haven but beat NDWH, West Haven Lost and beat NDWH. Glostonbury got tooled by Ridgefield twice both home and away and now beat the CT super titan of Fairfield Prep. these kids clearly came to play for the state tournament, and I don't think Glastonbury beat prep just to sit back and watch NDWH take away their cinderalla story. Glastonbury wins 3-2 or 4-3 in OT. watch for my tweets: StevenCGanung