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Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Division I Final Four Preview

By: Luke Devoe

Holdaway getting airborne after scoring the game winner.
Four exciting and engaging quarterfinal matchups are in the books which leads us to today's Division I semifinals.  Saturday, Notre Dame-West Haven overcame not really looking like themselves for two periods to score four unanswered goals and top a gassed South Windsor club who gave the Green Knights everything they had 4-2.  The next game saw the Glastonbury Tomahawks blow a two goal lead to the Darien Blue Wave only to notch the winner in the third and leave with a 3-2 victory.  While this game was going on, the upset minded West Haven Blue Devils took to the ice against the favorited Ridgefield Tigers at the Webster Bank Arena.  The Blue Devils behind the play of goalie Justin Shepard came away victorious with a 4-1 win.  Finally, in the early evening matchup the #1 Jesuits of Fairfield Prep looked stellar stifling everything Hamden brought in route to a 2-0 victory on a pair of goals from junior David White.  So what's in store for today?  Read below to find out more about these four semifinalists.
Connor Henry putting one on net against Hamden at the Bank.

In the first of the two semifinals, set to drop the puck at 5:30, the #1 Fairfield Prep Jesuits will take on the #4 Glastonbury Tomahawks.  Prep boasts one of the top scoring lines in the state featuring all-everything junior David White (28 G, 20 A, 48 Pts.), senior captain AJ Unker (12 G, 21 A, 33 Pts.) and unheralded junior Connor Henry (7 G, 10 A, 17 Pts.).  White has been so instrumental in Prep's dominance over Hamden this year, it's earth shattering.  In three games against the rival Dragons, White has scored 8 goals, factored in to all 9 and up to date has scored Prep's last seven goals against Hamden. But this isn't all that Prep brings to the table.  They are also a very defensively geared group, which was very evident in their shutout quarterfinal victory over Hamden.  Riley Wikman is one of the top goalies in the state and carries a 1.40 GAA into today's game.  He is protected by defensive stalwarts such as senior Tom Worsfold and junior Sean Henry.  They have the ability to coast to a state championship but have been tested at times this year, as recent as the first round against North Haven.  The two teams have not met this season but Glastonbury is ready to counter with some firepower of their own.  The Tomahawks strength can also make them susceptible if Prep is able to key their top line.  Seniors Ethan Holdaway (30 G, 24 A, 54 Pts.) and Dave Mozzer (22 G, 19 A, 41 Pts.) have lit it up for the Tomahawks all year but if Prep is able to hold them down victory should follow.  If Prep fails to do so we could be in for quite the game as both are more than capable of leading the Tomahawks to the upset victory.  Glastonbury junior goalie Chase Gabor brings a hefty 3.03 GAA into the game proving that Glastonbury likes to score plenty of goals and let up plenty as well even in victory.  But, Gabor was more than solid in their quarterfinal win over an evenly matched Darien club.  He will be a key to the Tomahawks chances.  Personally, I think Prep is too talented, too deep and too driven to not reach the final.  Prediction-- Prep 4, Glastonbury 1

Cretella line in a game at Bennett earlier this year.
West Haven in their fatigues during their Veteran's Game.
The second of the two semifinals should have not only Ingalls Rink buzzing but the entire town of West Haven.  Here the #2 Notre Dame-West Haven Green Knights take on the only team to reach the semi's on an upset win, the #6 West Haven Blue Devils.  It's public versus private and it should be frantic.  The teams only met once this year and saw the Westies upset the Knights 4-1 at Bennett in a game that looked very similar to West Haven's quarterfinal win over Ridgefield.  In the Blue Devils' 4-1 win over Notre Dame on February 4th, goalie Justin Shepard stopped 40 shots and the Westies were outshot 41-24.  In their 4-1 win over Ridgefield, Shepard stopped 39 shots and the Tigers outshot the Westies 40-10.  Maybe that's a good sign for the Westies heading into this game.  Maybe they've dodged one too many bullets in terms of being outshot by such wide margins.  Maybe, Justin Shepard has another monstrous game in him.  We shall see.  The Westies have one of the best and craftiest forwards in the state in senior Mike Troiano (20 G, 22 A, 42 Pts.) as well as the pint sized scoring machine junior known as Austin Hansen (17 G, 19 A, 36 Pts.)  The Blue Devils also have one of the best offensive defensemen in Kyle Leyerzapf patrolling their blue line along side the big hitting senior Danny Granfield. They have more than enough pop and experience to take another one from the Green Knights, but will Notre Dame let them?  They boast possibly the best line in the state with the combination of senior captain Colby Cretella, junior Greg Zullo and sophmore Billy Vizzo.  The problem lately has been the fact that Vizzo has been inactive with unconfirmed reports of an illness preventing him from playing.  Without Vizzo, the line loses some of its potency but Zullo and Cretella are more than capable of shouldering the load.  Junior goalie Luc Amatruda has played admirably in net and will be looked upon to turn away the ever present West Haven offense.  I love the matchup.  High school hockey loves the matchup but at the end of the day I think the Green Knights get redemption in one heck of a hockey game.  ND wins 4-3

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