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Friday, February 28, 2014

A Look At Tonight's Games

Bucks' Matt Schoen         Photo cred- Steve Smith
Friday, February 28th sees seven games taking place across the state. At this point everyone matters. In my previous post, I detailed where teams currently stand. I will post another Bracketology on Sunday after tonight and Saturday's large slate of games. Things are sure to change.  As for tonight, arguably the biggest game is our first game. At 5:00, EO Smith-Tolland (13-4-1) hosts Newington-Berlin (13-3-1) at Uconn. The Indians took down the Bucks in exciting fashion when the two met last time, beating them 3-2 in overtime in Newington. The Bucks have shown numerous times that they can hang with certain D2 squads. On paper it doesn't look impressive. They are 2-4 against D2 teams with the two wins coming against Farmington Valley. But if you look closer you'll see that 3 of the 4 losses came in overtime and all four came against D2 tournament qualifiers with a combined 39-10-3 record. Playing Newington close tonight will be great and all, but if the Bucks don't win this one, their hopes of a #2 seed in the D3 state tournament are lost. A win, paired with a win over Tri-Town tomorrow should set them up to earn a #2 seed. The task is lofty, however. Newington-Berlin is a quiet storm in D2 right now. They've moved up to #2 in my D2 Top 10 and they haven't lost since January 4th, a span where they've gone 10-0-1. By no means is their schedule SCC tough. This being their first year at D2, there are still a lot of D3 squads and lower level D2 squads on their schedule but they're a good team and at this point have to be in the discussion as a D2 title candidate. They are lead by senior Dan Roberts who's amassed 37 points (19 G, 18 A) through 17 games this year. In net, they are solid and rely on the two-headed monster of senior Tom Wood and junior Cam Criniti who have both posted sub two goals against averages to this point of the season.

Elsewhere, NFI (11-5-3) looks to finish strong after a tough 3-1 loss to the aforementioned Indians of Newington-Berlin. They host Shepaug-Litchfield-Nonnewaug (5-13) tonight at 5:30 at Danbury Ice Arena. NFI has had a confidence inducing end to their season. They've proven they can skate with anyone with repeated quality performances. They tied #2 Newtown 0-0, beat #1 Masuk 1-0, tied D2 heavyweight New Milford 2-2 and recently hung tough with Newington-Berlin. They won't blow your doors off offensively but have a deep group of forwards led by 15 goal scorer junior Parker Evans, senior Brian Gunn and junior Frank Haklits. Shepaug lost to NFI on the opening night of the season 3-0. That's way too far back to base anything off of but if Shepaug wants to hang in this one they better hope leading scorers, juniors Andrew Loya (31 points) and Christian Stuart (29 points) show up.

At the D1 level, Simsbury (7-10-1) hosts Glastonbury (12-5) tonight at 7:20 at the ISCC. After a decent start, Simsbury has been fighting it lately. Since beating D2 power East Catholic 2-1 on January 22, the Trojans have gone 1-7-1. The Tomahawks have gone in the other direction. They've won five of six and they currently have positioned themselves in a way, that if they win out, they can move all the way up to a #5 seed. When the teams met back in early January it was all Glastonbury, winning 5-1. Glastonbury is another team that has been doing it by committee but are lead in scoring by senior Patrick Conley (22 points) and the goal mouth out by junior Kyle Thibodeaux (3 SHO, 1.59 GAA). Don't be shocked to see senior goalie Alex Ment get some action at some point the rest of the way as he is more than capable on winning one for the 'Hawks as well.

The long anticipated Warrior Cup will take place tonight at 7:50 at Danbury Ice Arena featuring Newtown (11-4-3) and Joel Barlow (4-13). The teams have joined forces to raise funds to benefit the Wounded Warriors Project. Newtown police officer Matt Hayes (a Wounded Warrior) will be honored prior to the game. As far as the on ice action, Newtown is looking like a likely #2 seed in the D3 tourney barring a Bucks upset of Newington today. The Nighthawks laid their biggest egg of the year Wednesday night losing 5-1 to a then, 3-11 Wethersfield team. Only 2-2-1 over their last five, the Nighthawks would love to gather some consistency heading into the SCC tournament and D3 state tournament. Joel Barlow comes in losers of six of seven but have been in most of their games. The two teams battled to a 3-2 Newtown final the first time they met this year. Tonight's game should be tight, especially with all the hoopla surrounding it and the anticipated crowd.

Fermi-Enfield (5-11-1) needs to find a win in their last three games. If they lose out, their future gets clouded. They hope that happens tonight when they host D1's South Windsor (6-9-2) at 8:00 at Enfield Twin Rinks. With a win, the Bobcats would qualify for the D1 state tournament assuring them at worst a #14 seed. South Windsor is (4-4-2) over their last ten and has really been hit or miss all year. Fermi has lost 7 of 8 and are limping toward the finish line. That said, they've been in nearly every one of those games. The lost 2-0 to NWC, 3-1 to New-Ber, 4-3 in OT to Simsbury, 4-1 to Suffield and recently beat D2's best East Catholic 2-1. They can win this game and assure themselves a spot in the D2 tourney where they won't be an easy out, necessarily. Senior Bryan Bakas is one of the only Bobcats to consistently score (12 goals) and he'll be relied on heavily down the stretch. I think South Windsor wins this one, but it'll come down to the wire and I wouldn't be shocked if it went the other way.

BCR (15-2-1) has the potential to finish with a two loss regular season. Their final real test comes tonight when they host D3's Tri-Town (7-8-1) at 8:20 at the Bolton Ice Palace. BCR, like Newington-Berlin, in their first D2 season have gone about their business rather quietly and haven't lost since January 15th. They are 10-0-1 over that stretch, ring any bells? Tri-Town is only 3-6-1 over their last ten and have been handed a brutal finishing stretch with BCR, EO Smith-Tolland and Newtown. It's also been informally announced that Tri-Town will be facing Housatonic-NW-Wamogo next Wednesday as both teams sat at 19 games.

Finally, at 8:30 at Hotchkiss, Housatonic-NW-Wamogo (13-3-2) hosts Masuk (15-4) in a regular season finale for Masuk. As I mentioned before, Housy seems to have added an additional game with Tri-Town. Masuk was shocked slightly by Westhill Wednesday night, falling 4-3. I've been singing Westhill's praises all year but even I didn't see that one coming. Masuk should be fine. They are lead by one of D3's best players in junior Shane Dushay (24 G, 15 A, 39 Pts.). The Panthers have five players over 21 points on the season and a stalwart backstop in junior Conner Muller. Housy has played a lighter schedule but is doing what it takes to win. However, when these two teams met the first time around it was all Masuk winning 5-1. Housy relies on a pair of 10 goals scorers in junior Wes Reel and sophomore Jason Diamond. Junior goalie Eric Chin has played every minute for Housy in goal this year and has four shutouts to show for it.

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