The D1 state tournament kicks off tonight and it resembles more of a D2 tournament of years past in terms of the absolute uncertainty of it all. Greenwich is the #1 but most people have pegged Darien or Xavier the favorites. Glastonbury and NDF have the pieces to make a title work in completely different ways. Tradition SCC powers Hamden, NDWH and Prep all have what it takes to make a run. It’s wide open. Let’s take a look. For my complete D1 Predicted Bracket click here!
Greenwich, the top seed, hosts #16 South Windsor at 5:30 at Dorothy Hamill. The Cards are coming off a tough 5-3 loss to Darien in the FCIAC Championship. South Windsor lost 8 of their final 10 but have a goalie in junior Scott Skenyon that can keep the Bobcats in any game. Their problem lies in that they don’t have much offensive potential. A low scoring game gives them a fighting chance but Greenwich has pieces that could make that nearly impossible. The Cardinals are lead by all everything senior Dman Kevin Piotrzkowski. Greenwich gets contributions from up and down the lineup but seniors Matt Lodato has really stepped up his game of late. Senior goalie Bryan Archino has also been fantastic this season. Every time I wanted to doubt the Cardinals they notched another huge win. They are for real. I’m not sure how far they can go, but it should be further than this game. That is, unless Skenyon has something to say about it.
Prep finds themselves in unfamiliar territory ranked #9 and on the road in the first round. They face #8 Simsbury at the ISCC at 7:10. Prep hasn’t been on the road in the first round of the tourney since 2008. That year they were an 11 seed and won the state title. The last time they were on the road in the first round before that was 2000, a year that as the 13 seed they also won the state title. That is a little frightening for many teams who’ve written them off as having a down year. That said, Simsbury is underrated. Sophomore Drew Marquis is a darn good goalie and if his team gives him some support he should be able to hold off the Jesuit attack. While Prep doesn’t have a David White, completely dominating teams this year they do have a potent group of forwards lead by senior Ryan Deering and junior Justin Blanchette that can put up crooked numbers on any given night. Prep isn’t as strong on the back end as previous years as well but no player in the state puts as much on a slap shot as senior Vinny D’Amore. In no way can anyone write off Prep, nor should anyone assumes they’re going to win because they’re Prep. This will be a close, hotly contested 8/9 game with two teams that should give Greenwich, should they advance, a battle for one of the four semifinal spots.
#4 Glastonbury hosts #13 Northwest Catholic in a fantastic 4/13 matchup at 7:30 at Trinity. Glastonbury’s senior goalie Kyle Thibodeaux could be the best in the state. Senior forward Tyler MacLean is as solid as any forward in the state while senior role players like defenseman Logan Underwood and forward Matt Holdaway are those type of players that end up on state champion hockey teams. Ken Barse’s team is full of team-first kind of players. This team is drastically different from Barse’s group which featured Ethan Holdaway and Drew Mozzer and made a finals run a few years back and I think that’s a good thing. MacLean is a really good player but even he isn’t relied to carry the entire load. NWC is as young as any team in the state and the naïveté that comes with that could be beneficial. I don’t think they realize how good they can be. Junior Mike Camasso is a very underrated netminder and his handful of shutouts this year prove it. The Indians also have a budding star on their hands in the form of sophomore Anthony Ceolin. For my money though, it’s senior Tyler Noll’s time to shine. One of the few seniors on this team, his leadership is needed now more than ever. Do I think NWC will beat Glastonbury? No. Can they? Sure, but it’ll need to be a low scoring, puck possession type of win for them. The Tomahawks are really good and I don’t think they will allow this to happen.
Another excellent 5/12 matchup will take place at the MIP at 7:30 when #5 ND Fairield hosts #12 New Canaan. NDF went 2-2 to round out the regular season after running off five straight season changing wins. The Lancers continue to get contributions from all over the lineup. On any given night a different player can step up and that’s what defines a team. I refuse to name a single player by name on NDF because there are so many competent scorers on this roster. Okay fine, here’s two that I think will take over if NDF is to have an extended tourney stay… senior Jonny Suporn and junior Mike Antoniou. I could’ve substituted any of their forwards in for those two and have plenty of justification for doing so. It’s this reason that I have NDF as a final four participant. New Canaan is a scary good 12 seed though. Liam Mooney has shined this year on many occasions in net. However, the sophomore is still a sophomore and a first year starter so he’s had his bumps in the road. Patrick Hompe has the ability to be a gamechanger for the Rams and his nose for the net will be necessary if they want to pull this upset. It’s hard to even use the term upset when discussing the Rams as I think this one will be very close.
Darien and St. Joe’s never got to play this year due to the Cadets forfeiting the only game the two had on the schedule. They get this chance at 7:00 at the Darien Ice Rink. For my money, Darien is probably the best team in the state right now. Senior Jack Pardue could be the D1 Player of the Year and goalie Will Massie has proven that he could end up Goalie of the Year. Senior Craig Miller and junior Jake Kirby have been the perfect complement to Pardue this year but Darien’s strength goes way beyond their top line prowess. If the FCIAC has a chance at winning their first D1 state title since 1998, this is the team to likely do it. St. Joseph had plenty of turmoil this year. The fight with Trinity Catholic, the injury to freshman goalie Ryan Wilson and the all-too-real fear of not making the tournament. Senior captain Filippo Petrini did an admirable job keeping his boys focused. Now, senior Dylan Batterson mans the crease and sophomore Adam Usinger dazzles. This is a team that paired against any other team in the state I would give a fighting chance. However, Darien is playing too well for me to see anyone beating them this early.
#7 Ridgefield hosts #10 East Catholic in a captivating 7/10 game at the Winter Garden at 7. East Catholic put together a nice little season, their first at the D1 level. Ridgefield put together another solid campaign which is becoming common place each season. The Tigers have a seriously talented team but have lost 4 of 5 coming into play. Senior Liam Smith is fun to watch and can take over a game with ease. This was no more evident than when he notched a hat trick single handedly beating Hamden 3-2 in OT. A really impressive player every time I’ve seen the Tigers play is junior Jimmy Wilkinson, unfortunately for the Tigers, he's out with an upper body injury. Senior goalie Alec Schneider takes up a lot of net and has had some great performances. He’s disappeared in some games as well. His solid play will be crucial to the Tigers’ success. Munson, Manner, McCarthy… East Catholic is another one of those teams that just pours solid players over their boards. There isn’t a single guy that will blow your doors off in terms of talent but there is more than enough talent on this squad to pull the upset, one that I predicted.
|WH's Mike Savino|
A good old fashioned SCC tilt takes place at 5:00 at Freeman Athletic Center when #3 Xavier hosts #14 West Haven. The Westies beat Xavier 3-1 earlier this year but fell more recently 3-0. Let me make it clear, I picked Xavier to win the whole thing but if WH senior goalie Mike Savino plays the way he’s capable of playing, I’m done. He is the bread and butter that coach Joe Morrell relies on. He’s big, commanding and when he’s on, he’s hard to beat. Xavier counters with plenty of scoring potential up and down the lineup. Hunter Wilcox, Cam Pollack, David Piekut, Adam Aresco all have that unique ability to take over games. Pair that with the recent unstoppable play of senior goaltender Ben Guidobono and the Falcons may soar in this one. Xavier hasn’t lost since January 10, a span which has seen them go 9-0-3 and allow only 16 goals. That’s 16 goals in 12 games. West Haven isn’t exactly a juggernaut on offense. Junior Tyler Paine is a skilled player with great hands and Jeremy Borelli seems to shine whenever I watch the Westies play, but make no mistake this is a team struggling to score goals (6 goals over last 5 games) and if Xavier gets up early, the Westies could be in trouble.
|Hamden's Christian Ugolik|
#6 Hamden and #11 Notre Dame-West Haven meet for the third time in four games. NDWH has won two of three this year, most recently beating Hamden 3-2 in the D1 SCC Championship. A week prior to that Hamden spoiled NDWH’s Senior Night beating the Knights 4-2 at Bennett. NDWH broke Hamden’s 8 game unbeaten streak earlier this year winning 4-2 at the Lou. This is the stuff rivalries are made of. There will be plenty of talent on the ice at the Lou. NDWH brings skilled forwards junior Joe Ansaldo, sophomore Alec Andreucci and all world defenseman junior Colin O’Connor. Hamden counters with potential D1 Player of the Year sophomore Jeremy Routh, junior Christian Ugolik and converted defenseman with an offensive edge Sam Carignan. But I want to look at two players who have been excellent of late. Hamden’s senior forward Mike DeMatteis just keeps impressing each time out and is the perfect counterbalance player to Hamden’s top line. NDWH’s junior defenseman Dougie Caliendo has also been equally as impressive each of the last few times I’ve seen the Knights. This game will be fun to watch because of the first six guys mentioned, but will be decided by one of the lesser talked about players, kind of like Matt Plaziak potting two goals in the SCC Championship. Also an intriguing side note going into this one will be NDWH’s goaltender situation. It’s obvious Hamden will go with sophomore Stephen Richetelli who has been more than impressive this year but NDWH Head Coach Tim Belcher showed Hamden Head Coach Billy Verneris both junior Conor Hylton and senior Wade Conlan in net on Friday. My guess would be Conlan, but that’s just a hunch. I said going into the SCC Championship that I would pick the loser of that game in this one, so I’m going with Hamden because, well, I’m a believer in patterns… NDWH, Hamden, NDWH…
BEST GAME: (11) NDWH @ (6) Hamden- This one is relatively easy. Two age old rivals meeting for the third time in under a month. I will say though, that NDF/New Canaan game should be a blast as well.
BIGGEST BLOW OUT POTENTIAL- (15) St. Joseph @ (2) Darien- Darien is filthy, loaded and ready to go fresh off their FCIAC Championship. I would’ve gone SW/Greenwich but I believe in Scott Skenyon keeping that one closer than planned.
BEST PLAYER MATCHUP- Jeremy Routh (Hamden) vs. Alec Andreucci (NDWH)- Played together as kids, will battle against each other on the biggest of stages.
UPSET ALERT- (10) East Catholic @ (7) Ridgefield- I don’t have a ton of justification for this one. Ridgefield has been playing average hockey of late and I think the Eagles make a splash. Somebody will pull an upset, why not them?