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Sunday, March 15, 2015

Division II Semifinal Preview

Monday, March 16, 2015
Ingalls Rink, New Haven
5:30 p.m. (4) North Branford vs. (1) Conard

HOW NORTH BRANFORD GOT HERE: defeated (13) Wilton 6-2, defeated (5) Newington-Berlin 3-0
HOW CONARD GOT HERE: defeated (16) BCR 9-3, defeated (9) Cheshire 4-2

THE SCOOP: Conard just keeps on trucking. Much maligned by the New Haven County media, myself included, the Chieftains are doing work. For my purposes, I hate picking all top seeds to win, so I had Conard going down early... didn't happen. These guys are good. Jordan Fongemie and Mark Ehnot have taken over the post season. Sophomore Zach Polo can also dominate on any given night. The Chieftains embarrassed an overmatched BCR team on the tourney's opening night and fought back against Cheshire to take down the upset minded Rams 4-2 in the quarters. North Branford counters will equally as potent offense lead by senior Alec Martone. The real story for NB has been the phenomenal play of sophomore net minder Will McEwan. The T-Birds dealt with Wilton rather easily and then shutout Newington-Berlin in the quarters. I had North Branford and Branford in the final before the tourney started, so as you know, I'll stick my original pick, although it pains me to pick against Conard yet again. If someone is going to topple them, North Branford has what it takes, a proven SCC power, this will be a good one. There also isn't much to be learned comparing common opponents in this one with Conard going 4-1 and North Branford going 5-0 against teams they both faced.

LAST SEMIFINAL APPEARANCES: North Branford (2013- D2), Conard (2008- D1)

WHO WINS? Both teams play a challenging schedule in their own right but to me, a SCC schedule will always be tougher than up north. I think Conard may have the more talented front line guys but they don't have McEwan or the depth that NB has. Like I said, I have to make this pick because it's what I picked before the tourney, but I like it. NB is a hard working group capable of greatness. NB 4, Conard 3
Monday, March 16, 2014
Ingalls Rink, New Haven
7:30 p.m. (3) Branford vs. (2) Suffield-Granby-WL

HOW BRANFORD GOT HERE: defeated (14) Hand 4-0, defeated (6) Fairfield 3-2
HOW SGWL GOT HERE: defeated (15) East Haven 4-2, defeated (7) New Milford 4-3

THE SCOOP: Many people, including myself, were throwing around the notion that the winner of the Branford/Fairfield game would eventually be the D2 winner. I stand behind that despite SGWL beating Branford 4-1 just over a month ago. I think both those teams are proven and elite. Branford boasts Tyler Criscuolo, arguably the best player at the D2 level and one of the toughest to play against because of his sand paper mentality. I've spoken recently about the depth and strength of Branford's D core but don't forget guys like Cooper Bunton and Zach Withington, who've both taken games over at different times this year. SGWL counters with a little more depth up front. Players like Jake King, Jake Bourdeau, Colin MacDougald, Brendan Looney and Austin Rupp come to mind. However, they can't match up with the defensive front that Branford brings. This one could come down to two of the best goalies at the D2 level, seniors AJ Brink and Shane Kertanis. This is SGWL's first ever semifinal appearance as their present co-op. Suffield last made the final four in 2003 at the D1 level. This is all new to these kids. Branford last made it this far in 2012, when their current seniors were freshmen. A lot of Ingalls inexperience in this one but a lot of talent as well. This is a can't miss game.

LAST SEMIFINAL APPEARANCES: Branford (2012), SGWL (2003- D1)
SGWL STATE CHAMPIONSHIP APPEARANCES: (As Suffield 2000- won D2, 1992- lost D2, 1979 won D2)

WHO WINS: I picked Branford to win it all and I feel comfortable standing behind that. They find ways to win. This was no more evident than when they were down 2-0 to a good Fairfield team and Criscuolo decided to take over. SGWL is good and I've loved the development of this team over the years. I'm eager to see them as I don't get that chance often and I've always been a big fan of Jake King. If either team wins, it'll be a great story. Branford hasn't won a state title since 1988. SGWL has never won one as a co-op and last won one as Suffield in 2000. But I'll go Hornets. Branford 5, SGWL 3

So. Zach Polo (Conard)- 14 multipoint games this year. Don't sleep on this youngster while focusing on Fongemie and Ehnot.
So. Brian McKee (North Branford)- Also a sophomore, McKee can also be forgotten with Martone's 50 point season. McKee notched 31 points in 22 games this year.
Sr. Aidan Deane (Branford)- Senior defenseman is an anomaly among his fellow D men, most of whom are "defensive defenseman." Deane has potted 7 goals and added 9 assists this year.
Jr. Colin MacDougald (SGWL)- One of the best passers in the tournament. MacDougald is the glue that makes SGWL work. 21 of his 29 points this year have come via the pass.

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