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Friday, March 14, 2014

D3 Final Four Set

Bliesner stopped 58 shots for Tri-Town last night.
The D3 Quarterfinals did not disappoint. All four games were tight, some more so than others, and all eight quarterfinalists left it out on the ice. I started covering all three divisions last year and I have to say it was a good decision. The compete level, the want and passion runs a parallel at all three divisions. On ice talent could be argued, but you can't deny the effort that every kid in the state pours out not only on game night but on practice mornings and off ice workouts. Those "legs" that coaches often preach were direly needed last night in the last quarterfinal to finish. (3) Sheehan and (11) Tri-Town battled, battled and battled some more to the tune of a 3-2 triple overtime Tri-Town victory. With the win, the Terrorcats punch their first ticket to a semifinal since 1994. Tri-Town used first and second period goals from Ryan Bialy and Tom Burgess to jump out to a 2-0 lead which they held through two periods of play. But, it didn't last, Sheehan's Mike Cerrotti and Sal Gozzo both scored within the first five minutes of the third frame making it 2-2, a score that would hold up for about 45 game minutes. After skating to a couple of goalless overtimes, legs trembling, water and gatorade flowing, the teams took to the ice for the third overtime. Just over five minutes into the frame and shortly before midnight, Jay Skorulski was able to punch home a puck, sending Tri-Town to the semi's and Sheehan to a depressing bus ride home. Both goalies were fantastic. Winning goalie senior Alex Bliesner finished with 58 saves on 60 shots while Sheehan net minder Carly Femniak finished with 48 in an admirable performance.

Waiting eagerly for the conclusion of this one was the (1) Newtown Nighthawks, a 4-1 winner over (7) Hall-Southington. After skating to a scoreless first, Newtown was able to claim a 1-0 lead heading into the third. Jonathan Lovorn, always Johnny on the spot, potted two quick goals for Newtown in the third, one of which would be the eventual game winner. There weren't a lot of shots (19-15 Newtown) in this blue collar, hard hitting affair. It came down to the Nighthawks simply grinding it out against a competent and confident Hall club. Newtown beat Tri-Town both times they met this season, 3-0 back on 1/8 and 2-1 on 3/2. Lovorn and Hall-Southington's Jarod Florian are both finalists for D3 Skater of the Year.

At the Wonderland, (1) Masuk got a brief scare from (8) Staples-Weston-Shelton. The Panthers only lead the upset minded 8-seed 4-3 mid way through the third frame and the Wreckers were coming, receiving a couple breakaway opportunities. Masuk goalie Connor Muller calmly shut down this bids, however and Masuk added a couple of late goals to move on with a hard fought 6-3 victory. The Panthers got two goals and two assists from sophomore Brian Denham and a goal and three assists from junior Shane Dushay. Wreckers junior Jack Mendillo finished with a three point night, two goals and an assist. Dushay and Mendillo are both finalists for D3 Skater of the Year.

In the day's earliest game, (4) EO Smith-Tolland represented the north well defeating (5) NFI 5-2. After NFI jumped out to an early 2-0 lead, the Bucks composed themselves, responded with a late first period goal and only trailed 2-1 going into the first break. After that, it was all Bucks. Pete Mayer notched a hat trick on the day, his second in as many games while goalie Matt Schoen turned aside 28 shots. EO Smith-Tolland will go on to face Masuk in the other D3 semifinal. The two teams did not meet this season. Both games will be played Tuesday, March 18 at 5:30 and 7:30.

Congratulations to the four schools representing Division III in this year's semifinals. We certainly have some unfamiliar faces which is great for the sport. This will be Newtown's first ever trip to the semis. EO Smith-Tolland last reached a semifinal in 1995 playing as EO Smith HS. Tri-Town last made a semifinal trip in 1994 while Masuk is the only recurring character of late. This will be the Panthers fourth semifinal appearance since 2009. With EO and Tri-Town winning, two of my predicted semifinalists are out, but my DIII final is still in tact. I have Masuk and Newtown advancing, though the Bucks are now making me reevaluate a lot of things.

Tonight, the D2 quarters get underway. At 6:30 (3) Branford faces (11) Milford at Bennett and (1) East Catholic takes on (8) Cheshire at Trinity. In Milford at 7:00, (2) Amity clashes with (10) New Milford and at 7:30 at the NIP (5) North Haven meets (13) Daniel Hand.

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