Dragons Lay Off
The Hamden Green Dragons got off to the best start of any team in the state winning both of their opening week games against D1 FCIAC powers Darien and New Canaan. The second of the two games, a 5-2 win at New Canaan, was on December 21st, a full two weeks prior to Saturday night’s matchup against St. Joseph. That’s a lot of time off for a scrappy Dragons squad that would’ve much preferred to ride the momentum of the two early season wins and play right away. But captain Anthony Rascati ain’t scared. “The boys are working really hard. Skating a lot to keep the legs going over the break,” he continued, “We’re meshing really well as a team. We’re not really worried about what place we’re in. We’re just taking it day by day, game by game. That’s how we keep our focus on what needs to be done.” This confidence coming from the top down is a great thing to see coming from the Lou this year. Junior defenseman Stephen Pantera echoed much of what Rascati stated. “With all the conditioning over the past week, we look like we’re really gelling,” Pantera said. These longs layoffs have happened in the past for teams like Hamden and at least in their case, Head Coach Bill Verneris does seem to have a way of uniting the boys. This “gelling” and “meshing” will be on display Saturday night at the Rinks at Shelton when Hamden takes on a hit or miss St. Joe’s squad.
Atop the D3 Standings
At a combined 9-0, both rocking the top of the division look, Tri-Town and Housatonic-Northwestern-Wamogo have exploded onto the D3 scene this year. Tri-Town dropped down to D3 this season after a year to forget at D2 last year. The co-op went 1-19, dropping their final 15 games with their lone win coming against Rocky Hill-RHAM-Middletown. Now, first year coach Jesse Peters' club sits at 4-0 with early season wins over D2’s Fermi-Enfield and Wilton. Senior captain Nick Violette attributes a lot of the team’s early success to youth and their ability to adapt to different roles. “I think since we have such a young team, everyone is pulling for each other and everyone’s learning their role,” he reported to CTHSHockey. He also credited the team’s depth and the vital role their third line has played up to this point in giving the top line a breather. Captain Rudy O’Konis took it a step farther, “There’s a certain unity in our locker room that’s hard to explain. Everyone wants to be at practice and every game everyone is focused.” There’s still a long way to go for Tri-Town with some tough games ahead on the calendar but at least for now this group of grinders are enjoying the early season success.
Housatonic-Northwestern-Wamogo is already 5-0 and Coach Dean Diamond is thrilled not only to have the early success to be coaching this collection of players. “I have a great group of kids that have played together. The schedule has helped us, but we will show we’re for real. Sheehan (on Friday) will be a great test,” Diamond said. This “great group of kids” is being led from the net out where junior goalie Eric Chin sits pretty with a 1.40 GAA while a strong junior class led by Wes Reel (5 G, 4 A), James Hufton (3 G, 4 A) and defenseman Liam Bamberry (4 A) have put up the needed goals to this point. Sophomore Jason Diamond (5 G, 1 A) has also shown he can compete at this level. Housy was competitive last season and finished with nine wins including gems over Masuk and Sheehan but this year something seems different. Time will tell but so will Friday’s game with Sheehan, the first real stand out test for Diamond’s club.
Newtown, a team with what I’d consider D2 talent, dropped down to D3 this year only a few months after shocking #1 Amity in the Division 2 State Tournament. They opened up the season with an impressive win over fellow D3 power Masuk. They followed it up by tying a low tier D2 squad in Wilton and getting dismantled by Westhill 4-0 in a game that probably should’ve went the other way. Most recently, they defeated an overmatched Lyman Hall-HK squad 6-3. This inconsistency has the Nighthawks sitting at 2-1-1 but if you look a little closer, all is fairly well in Nighthawkland. Newtown recently got the services of senior Jonathan Lovorn for the first time. He responded well, potting three goals in the win over LHHK. Lovorn’s short hockey career is well traveled, playing in Chicago a year ago, followed by the Brewster Bulldogs and now at Newtown High School where the defenseman is expected to contribute in a large way. Newtown also lost the services of senior Zach Waller and sophomore Scott McLean who both were sidelined after the Masuk win with concussion like symptoms. Waller returned to action Tuesday and McLean’s return should be within a week. This makes the Nighthawks that much more potent, that much deeper and if title hopes ever faded, they should certainly be back.
Two-Headed Tyler Monster
I’ve written in great detail about the depth Branford has this year. The ability to spell their top guns and add secondary scoring has the Hornets riding high at 4-0. But let us not forget the two-headed Tyler Monster. Juniors Tylers Criscuolo and Hackett have already combined for over twenty points. They’ve dangled, they’ve dazzled, killed off penalties and combined for three hat tricks already. Their on ice exploits are only furthered by their mutual respect of one another. “He’s a strong, solid kid and an excellent penalty killer. He’s a good player to have on the power play with me,” Hackett said of Criscuolo. Criscuolo returned the favor calling Hackett a “great teammate” and commending his speed and skillset. The chemistry these two have on the ice have Hornet fans dreaming of a state title. With AJ Brink in net this dream doesn’t seem too far fetched.
|Hackett (4) and Criscuolo (11) in a game vs. Hand last year.|
Let's Bond Bro
Newington-Berlin and Fairfield Prep both went out of state recently for in-season holiday tournaments. While the Jesuits were a little more tight lipped about their experience, a 2-1 trip to the vaunted Mount St. Charles Tournament, one senior told CTHSHockey that “The trips are a great thing. We are able to get closer as a team and learn to work together. It helps us on and off the ice. Finishing on a good note was a positive for us and important for the young guys.” In my opinion, these trips are great for team bonding, forging relationships, and experiences against different teams. For Newington-Berlin, they too, went 2-1 on a trip to Durham, New Hampshire. Senior Kevin Landau spoke to CTHSHockey about the experience. “The trips help develop a true brotherhood. Being with the boys basically all day for three days and all that bonding helps create plenty of chemistry on the ice,” he said. Senior Dan Roberts agreed with Landau’s assessment “We look to prove this chemistry this weekend. When you come out 2-1 and beat a team like St. Thomas [Aquinas], it’s a huge confidence boosted,” Roberts concluded. In the end, the Jesuits and Indians both had a valuable experience in their respective tournaments. They saw success, built bonds and made CT proud.
Much of CTHSHockey is getting healthy on the injury front. Newtown gets the aforementioned Cooper McLean (concussion) back within the next week. Woodstock Academy stud freshman Nathan DeLuca (upper body) is showing no ill effects from an upper body injury sustained in a loss to North Haven. The postponement today certainly aided in his recovery. East Catholic senior Patrick Bishop (upper body) was injured in the Eagles consolation victory over Guilford last week. He skated today and should be a game time decision on Saturday. Finally, St. Bernard-NFA-Bacon’s Tyler Faulkner (concussion) was cleared to play Monday and will be back in action for the Saints.