Only half of these matchups have happened this season with Masuk sweeping St. B's by a combined 16-5 score, EO Smith-Tolland narrowly defeating Wethersfield 3-1 twice, Newtown topping Joel Barlow two times and Sheehan scoring a combined 18 goals in two wins over Shepaug.
|SWS' Jack Mendillo (photo- Mark Conrad)|
Another that should be close is the 6/11 matchup between Housy and Tri-Town. The two didn't meet this season and after a great start to the year, Tri-Town dropped 9 of their final 12. I think they're better than this, however. They were able to go toe to toe with some top guns at both the D2 and D3 level losing close affairs to Newtown, BCR, SGWL and Hand. They are certainly battle tested with a strength of schedule far superior to that of Housatonic-NW-Wamogo's. But don't let that cause you to doubt Dean Diamond's boys. They are deserving of a #6 seed and have some potent weapons at their disposal including juniors Wes Reel, James Huften and sophomore Jason Diamond. Tri-Town counters with some competent scorers of their own lead by senior Connor Wyllie. I officially called for a Tri-Town upset in this one and while I'm not super confident in it, I'll stick with it.
Other interesting matchups include Westhill @ NFI and Wethersfield @ the Bucks. Westhill is a very good 12 seed and a scary matchup for a red hot NFI team to draw. Westhill won their last three games including topping #1 seed Masuk. NFI is coming off a SCC/SWC D3 title and finished the regular season strong. This could be the best of the D3 matchups but it's hard to pick against NFI the way they've been playing lately. The Bucks should be okay against Wethersfield, but the Eagles were able to battle with EO the first two times they met. If captain Bill Connor wants his Eagles squad to be able to hang in this one, they're going to need a low scoring affair.
FIVE PLAYERS TO WATCH:
These aren't necessarily the best guys on the ice, but certainly guys who can change games based on the intangibles.
Connor Bunovsky (Masuk) Jr. The defenseman just seems to be as dependable as they come. With a strong point presence and a booming shot which surprises at times due to his size, Bunovsky will be relied on if Masuk is to move forward.
Parker Evans (NFI) Jr. The speedy forward is a game changer on a team with a ton of competent options. Evans has 20 points through 22 games for NFI this year but it's the small things he's able to do that allow NFI to be successful.
Eric Chin (Housatonic-NW-Wamogo) Jr. The junior netminder brings four shutouts and a 1.83 GAA to Housy's first round matchup with Tri-Town. He's one of the few goalies in the state to play every single minute for his team.
Mike Cerrotti (Sheehan) Jr. Cerrotti and his longer frame is tough to move off the puck. Sheehan has beaten the teams they're supposed to this year but struggle against the big boys. Cerrotti among other solid Titan forwards will need to step their game up in order to Sheehan to continue their record season.
Eric Zurmuehle (SWS) Sr. The senior often gets forgotten in the Mendillo/Nussbaum shuffle but his unselfish, team first play has allowed Staples success on many occasions this year. Zurmuehle finished the regular season with 33 points including 25 assists.
THREE THINGS I THINK:
1) Newtown's Jonathan Lovorn is the best player at D3 and would be a solid puck moving defenseman at any high school level. He is the definition of game changer, maintains his head even when he's being keyed by the opposition and he's a classy kid to boot.
2) Woodstock Academy should be lauded for a successful transition to the varsity hockey. They locked up a (10) seed after a 6-9 season. I also think they will battle hard with Hall-Southington after plenty of time to prepare.
3) Westhill, talent-wise, should be about a 6 seed. They played a hard schedule and their record indicated this. Their first round matchup with NFI could very well be a semifinal-like atmosphere.
CTHSHockey D3 Predicted Bracket