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Thursday, March 12, 2015

Quarterfinal Snapshot

Here's a quick look at all 12 quarterfinal matches spanning all three divisions. The first round was exciting and had its fair share of heartbreak and exaltation. Let's see what the the quarters brings!

DIVISION III Quarterfinals- 3/12
(1) EO Smith-Tolland vs. (8) Staples-Weston-Shel 6:00 @ Bennett Rink
This season: Did not meet     Recent History: No recent meeting
Staples has an electric offense lead by freshman Sam New, a 30 goal scorer, and juniors Jesse Greenspun and Ryan Johnson. But the Bucks are loaded. Senior Pete Mayer has been playing at a high level for years while other players like senior Josh Barnes continue to contribute consistently as well. The Bucks have an edge in net with senior Matt Schoen but don't sleep on Staples' freshman goalie Zach Bloom who was very good in their first round win over Barlow, especially late. PICK- Bucks

(12) Shepaug-Litch-Nonn vs. (13) Woodstock Academy 5:15 @ Northford Ice Pavilion
This season- Did not meet     Recent History: First ever meeting
Two underdog stories meet at the NIP tonight. Woodstock is only in their second varsity season while Shepaug has lived in the bottom of high school hockey for a few years now. This is a one of a kind opportunity for both of these teams to potentially punch a ticket to the semis. Shepaug's Andrew Loya has been great all year and has the unique ability to take over games. Woodstock's dynamic duo of Black and Deluca will try their best to neutralize Loya and provide enough of a spark to keep their improbable run going. I didn't have either of these teams getting past this point so I'll go with my original pick to at least make it this far. PICK- Shepaug

(2) Masuk vs. (7) Sheehan 7:00 @ Milford Ice Pavilion
This season- Masuk won 7-2 & 5-1 (SCC/SWC Semis)     Recent History: Masuk has won 8 straight dating back to 2011.
These two met at Milford in the SCC/SWC D3 semis less than two weeks ago. It was ugly. Masuk carried play throughout and never really gave Sheehan a chance to get anything going. Sheehan has enough offensive talent to score against Masuk but you have to get the puck past center ice to be able to do that. Masuk stifled the Titans entry and clogged up the neutral zone. Masuk's talented cast of characters lead by Shane Dushay, Charlie Christo, Connor Bunovsky and more should be able to do enough to be able to head back to the D3 semis. I think this one will be closer than the previous two, however. PICK- Masuk

(3) Westhill vs. (11) Tri-Town 6:30 @ Wonderland of Ice
This season: Did not meet     Recent History: No recent meeting between the two.
Westhill dominated a weak Hall-Southington team in the first round to the tune of a 6-0 win. Tri-Town used a late third period rally and rode a hat trick by senior Ryan Gaidos to beat a good Housatonic-NW-Wamogo team. Both teams have great goaltending in Westhill's sophomore Christian Compolattaro and Tri-Town's senior Phil Nicolescu. I didn't have either of these teams advancing past this point but thanks to Housy losing I'll have to pick a winner here. Westhill plays a near perfect defensive game. I'll stick with that. PICK- Vikings

DIVISION II Quarterfinals- 3/13
(1) Conard vs. (9) Cheshire 6:30 @ Wonderland of Ice
This season: Did not meet     Recent History: Recently Rams and Chieftains are 1-1-1 head to head but haven't met since 2013.
This isn't your usual 1/9 matchup. This will be a very even game. Cheshire looked phenomenal against North Haven in the first round. They looked rested, well prepared and extremely pumped up. Kyle Frederick stood out among the rest as a player who's engine never stopped pumping. Conard comes in after demolishing an overmatched BCR team. Fongemie and Ehnot shined yet again. They will certainly be needed in this one. With North Haven out, I'm really tempted to pick Cheshire in this one. Why not? It's D2... anything can happen. PICK- Cheshire

(4) North Branford vs. (5) Newington-Berlin 5:30 @ Bennett Rink
This season: North Branford won 7-3     Recent History: North Branford is 2-0-1 over the last three but teams are 2-2-1 head to head since 2010.
These teams have met frequently and aside from North Branford's season opening blow out with, their games are usually pretty close. Top line star power is clear in this one with players like the DiPaolas, Gugliotti, Martone and Burkle but depth will be a major issue. Who can provide that bench spark for both these teams that not only eats minutes but can also be productive. I have the T-Birds in my pre-tournament final four so I'll stick with it. PICK- North Branford

(2) SGWL vs. (7) New Milford 7:00 @ Northford Ice Pavilion
This season: Did not meet     Recent History: No recent meeting
SGWL was given quite a battle from SCC's East Haven in the 2/15 game but they came survived and advanced. New Milford looked dreadful in their SCC/SWC D2 Championship loss but took down a solid Fermi-Enfield team in convincing fashion. These teams are pretty even at the top. New Milford's Tommy Nisco is a talented kid and SGWL's Jake King excites every time he's on the ice. SGWL has more horses in their stable though in my opinion. Both Fortuna and Kertanis are quality goaltenders but Kertanis may end up seeing less rubber thus giving SGWL the edge. PICK- SGWL

(3) Branford vs. (6) Fairfield 7:00 @ Milford Ice Pavilion
This season: Branford won 6-2 & Fairfield won 2-1 (OT)     Recent History: Branford has won 7 of 10 head to head.
I love this matchup. Obviously Branford is my pick to win the whole thing but in my opinion Fairfield is the second best team in the tournament. Jake Fuss and Tyler Criscuolo are battling head to head for Player of the Year and both can absolutely take over a game at any time. Fairfield went with Greenhut in net against Milford and he was fantastic. Brink, on Branford's side, has allowed one single goal in his last three games. Much of that can also be attributed to Branford's wealth of D. I picked Branford heading into the tourney and I never waiver from a pick but if any team is to knock them off, it'll be the Mustangs. PICK- Branford

DIVISION I Quarterfinals- 3/14
(1) Greenwich vs. (9) Fairfield Prep NOON @ Webster Bank Arena
This season: Did not meet     Recent History: No recent meeting
Many people think this is Prep's tournament still despite their struggles this year. I picked Greenwich on my bracket so I'll stick with that pick but I don't think it would be earth shattering if Prep was to win. They shut down a good Simsbury team in the first round and are usually as prepared for games as any team in the state. Greenwich is a strong team, maybe not as good as a #1 should be but they're easily one of the top 5 in the state in terms of talent and personnel. It will be this personnel and senior leadership that get it done for Greenwich if they are to win, players like seniors Kevin Piotrzkowski, Matt Lodato and goalie Bryan Archino. PICK- Greenwich

(4) Glastonbury vs. (5) ND Fairfield 1:00 @ Bennett Rink
This season: ND Fairfield won 3-2     Recent History: Glastonbury has won 3 of 5 since 2010.
What a beaut this game is! NDF beat Glastonbury in the regular season but you can throw that out. These two teams are evenly matched but rely on completely different styles to win. Glastonbury wins more defensively, allows very few goals and leans heavily on all-world goalie Kyle Thibodeaux. NDF scores in bunches and usually it comes from a variety of goal scorers. I called for Antoniou and Suporn to have a big first round game. Let's go with McCutcheon and Gawricki in this one. It's like throwing a dart at a board with NDF though, they all have the potential to explode. I picked NDF before the tourney and that won't change. PICK- NDF

(2) Darien vs. (7) Ridgefield 2:00 @ Webster Bank Arena
This season: Ridgefield won 4-1     Recent History: Ridgefield has won 4 of 7 since 2010.
Gotta love when conference rivals meet on the biggest stages. Ridgefield has more than held their own recently against Darien. I picked against the Tigers in the first round mainly because of them losing 4 of 5 to end the regular season and losing to St. Joe's, a team who just got throttled by Darien in the first round. Darien, in my opinion, is the best team in the state so I obviously have them winning this game. However, if any team can knock them down it's Ridgefield, a team that's done well against them recently. PICK- Wave

(3) Xavier vs. (6) Hamden 4:00 @ Bennett Rink
This season: Hamden won 4-3     Recent History: Hamden and Xavier have gone 2-2-1 over their last five head to head meetings.
I don't change picks, I've said that a million times and Xavier is my pick to win D1. I chose them because of their team speed, excellent goaltending from senior Ben Guidobono and beautifully crafted coaching adjustments I've seen this year by DeConti. None of this has changed. A 2-1 OT win over a 14 seed doesn't change that because simply, they ran into Mike Savino, a scary force in net. Hamden posted a humongous win over rival NDWH last night. They dominated and never let the Knights breath. Routh, Ugolik and Blackwell did what they do best. Carignan carried play and, as predicted, Mike DeMatteis shined. They have what it takes to take down Xavier as they did earlier this year. If I was making picks on the fly, based on first round action, I may go with the Dragons but I just can't break from my original choice, the Falcons. PICK- X

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