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Sunday, March 16, 2014

Early Games Tight, Late Ones... Not So Much

The top four teams at the Division I level have advanced to the state semifinals, some in more convincing fashion than others. (3) Fairfield Prep kicked off the quarterfinal action fending off (6) Glastonbury 4-3 at Bennett Rink. Prep never trailed in this one, but the Tomahawks, exerting all kinds of effort and stick-to-it-iveness, rallied to tie this one twice in the second period. Prep ended up outshooting the Tomahawks 38-27 but it was their offensive zone dominance that was the difference. That time of possesion advantage, paired with dagger goals just when Glastonbury gained any semblance of confidence allowed the Jesuits to skate into their fifth straight semifinal. Prep got goals from four different skaters and a solid performance in net from senior Chris Gutierriez. Glastonbury's junior goalie Kyle Thibodeaux did all he could in this one, as he's done all of this season, finishing with 34 stops. Prep moves on to face hated rival (2) NDWH, a 2-0 redemptive winner over (7) New Canaan in Bridgeport. It's been well documented that the Rams were able to take down the Green Knights twice this year. A third time, would prove to be elusive but not without quite a battle. After two scoreless frames, junior Ryan Lynch was able to break the stalemate. Senior captain Matt Dumas was able to finish the job with a late empty netter. Both goalies were excellent in this one, each turning away 27 shots. NDWH junior Wade Conlan has now not let up a single goal in this year's state tournament, stopping all 44 shots he's face in beating Simsbury 3-0 and New Canaan 2-0. I'll have full D1 semi previews out later this week but I'll put it this way, I picked Prep to win all of D1 and I won't back away from that, but man do the Green Knights look poised. They've battled through injury, early season goaltending uncertainty and some serious losses in personnel, but in Tim Belcher's first year at the helm, he has his team set up for something the whole state's looking forward to, a Wednesday night clash with their long time rival Fairfield Prep.

The later two games of the day weren't as exciting. After allowing South Windsor to hang around for a decent amount of time in this one, the Wave used two third period goals to leave no doubt about the outcome beating the Bobcats 5-0 at Bennett. Behind two goals from Dillon Fitzpatrick and a 22 save shutout effort from senior Mike Colon, the Wave crashed South Windsor's hopes of an improbable semifinal run. Sophomore goalie Scott Skenyon kept his Bobcats in this one for a while but eventually succumbed to the constant barrage of Darien shots. Skenyon finished with 34 saves in this one. Darien will now take on (1) ND Fairfield who dismantled (8) East Haven 11-1 at Ingalls Rink last night. Early and often took on new meaning at Ingalls last night where the Lancers jumped out to an early 3-0 lead nearly five minutes into the game. Senior Christian La Croix finished with four goals for NDF while Garrett Gintoli and Danny Walsh both added two goals and Ryan Gawricki helped on three. The Lancers, despite scoring 11 times only put 39 shots on net. That means they scored on 29% of their shots. Lancer senior goalie Zak Bouve was tested at times, so let's not let his 25 save performance get forgotten in the Lancer offensive onslaught. One thing that stands out for this one was the attendance. Granted it was a 7 p.m. game at an iconic arena but it dwarfed the amount of people who showed up at Webster. Ingalls Rink, the bleachers, the structure and the stigma associated with making there ooze high school hockey. Regardless of the outcome, which was ugly, this was a better venue for high school puck. I sure hope the brass at the CIAC realize this. Webster is corporate, cavernous and so non-atmospheric it's laughable. But hey, at least for the time being, Ingalls is home, so let's enjoy this final week!

East Catholic, Amity, EO Smith-Tolland and New Milford have all advanced through the quarterfinals of our Second Chance Jersey Challenge! Check back frequently to vote in the coming rounds. Remember the winner of this battle will go head to head with Wilton.

Check back for my D2 Semifinal Preview! D2 State Semifinals to take place tomorrow night at 5:30 (Amity vs. Milford) and 7:30 (East Catholic vs. Hand) at Ingalls Rink.

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