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Sunday, March 17, 2013

D2 Championship Preview

By: Luke Devoe

CIAC Boys Ice Hockey Division II Championship
 East Catholic vs. (13)Fairfield Warde-Ludlowe
Monday March 18, 7:00 pm
Ingalls Rink, New Haven

Normally the first state final to be completed, the D2 State Championship was moved to Monday night due to Yale clinching a bye in the first round of the ECAC Tournament and thus needed Ingalls on Friday.  While the usual suspects in D1 and D3 grace the ice for their championship opportunities it was anyone's guess who would represent Division II in the state final.  After the dust settled East Catholic, a team who remained toward the top of the D2 rankings all season and Fairfield, an erratic squad who've gathered around a common goal are the two remaining standing.  Regardless of how they got here, both are hungry and have already eclipsed and forgotten their matching first round exits of last year.

The two got here playing a similar game.  They both rely on solid, not spectacular goaltending.  Of late EC goalie junior Thomas Usseglio has been outstanding but it wasn't that way all season.  Fairfield will send sophomore Kyle Greenhunt to man the pipes in the final.  He's shared the net this year but toward the end has been outstanding including absolutely shutting down a potent North Branford offense in their semi.  These teams don't have superstars.  They don't have a top line that will garner all the attention and steal all the ice time.  They are collectives, team units who focus around their goal of playing complete hockey. 
Thomas Usseglio has been fantastic in net for East Catholic.

Both teams are extremely well coached, responsible and rarely make lazy, silly mistakes.  East Catholic is proven under coach Drew Clarkin.  They had to go through rival Northwest Catholic a third time to get where they are and did so convincingly beating the Indians 3-0.  They also boast wins over D1's Glastonbury and D2 powers Daniel Hand, North Branford, and the aforementioned Northwest Catholic Indians twice.  But they aren't invincible and at times they are susceptible to an upset, something many would consider a Fairfield win on Monday.  East Catholic has lost to D3 opponents Hall-Southington and St. Bernard-Bacon-NFA as well as mid tier D2 squads Conard and Farmington Valley.  However, this was before goalie Usseglio began playing the way he is now.  East has only allowed six goals over their last six games and are led on offense by a cast of characters who equally distribute the wealth.  They've gotten contributions from everybody but especially the duo of Lee Munson and Griffin Casey of late, both players who've guided East to where they are today.  Not to be forgotten is the play of seniors Evan Cedrone and Vinny Genovesi, two key cogs throughout the regular season.

In their 6-1 semifinal win over (3) BBD, the Eagles took a 2-0 lead into the third period before exploding for four more, convincingly eliminated the Ice Cats.  The aforementioned Casey and Munson would get the Eagles on the board in the second period, Munson's becoming the eventual game winner.  In the third East Catholic got another goal from Casey and one each from junior Patrick Bishop and sophomore Jake McCarthy.  BBD's Scott Martin would add the lone Ice Cat tally on the night (side note: Martin had all 5 of BBD's goals in their final two games).  The Eagles cruised, paced brilliantly by Usseglio who turned away 23 of 24 BBD shots continuing his stellar play of late.

Fairfield Warde-Ludlowe comes into the final a very even match for the Eagles.  Both teams like to spread out the scoring wealth and have capable netminders but the glaring difference is the experience.  While their goalie and leading scorer are underclassmen, Fairfield boasts 9 seniors to EC's 4.  This could prove helpful in this one or it could be a non factor based on East's ability to have a different hero each night.  The co-op is well coached by Mark Pettorini and assistants John Landino (former Hamden Green Dragon) and Kevin Keating.  After some rough losses (Trumbull, Trin Cath) they've rallied the troops to really buy in to what they're preaching.  Fairfield is led by junior Kevin Robinson and his 17 goals on the year.  The kid can fly and speed may have to be Fairfield's game on Monday.  He's not the only one who can move the puck effectively. Junior Jack O'Rourke and senior Tom Kryspin also can be broke at any time.  Kryspin has played like a man possessed of late.  In net, sophomore Kyle Greenhut will get the call.  The sophomore came up large in the semi stoning North Branford stud Dylan Podbielski on a number of occasions and squelching any late chances the T-Birds had.  Like EC, Fairfield also won the attrition in their 3-1 semifinal win over a dangerous (9) North Branford squad.  They got on the board late in the first when Kryspin was found by senior Tim Grace hanging out to left of Thunderbird goalie Kyle Saroka, Kryspin potted the goal to give Fairfield a 1-0 lead heading into the second.  O'Rourke added a rebound goal in the second and junior Austin Armas put the nail in the coffin with under five to go in the third.  The T-Birds would add a late goal ending Greenhut's bid for a shutout.  He finished stopping 21 of 22 shots on goal in the win.

Fairfield's Conor Scharlop (2) hopes to celebrate like this Monday night.
The three finals this year pit some of the best defensive units against one another.  I've chronicled the defensive brand that BCR brings every night, Newington-Berlin proved how invaluable good defense in front was on Saturday.  Fairfield Prep's stifling defense has been discussed as well this year and both of these teams have used stalwart D to get them to this point.  It could be argued that NDWH relies the most on their offense of any of the six teams left heading into this weekend and I don't envy anyone that has to go up against their D core on any given night.  This one should be tight.  If it was to go "blowout" in either direction, I'd say East Catholic, because of Usseglio has the better chance at that but I don't see that happening.  I think EC is deep and talented while Fairfield boasts some better individual talents.  It may come down to the crease where I think Usseglio is a bit stronger than Greenhut.  I'll go East Catholic 3, Fairfield Co-op 2.

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