A combined 11-1, Wallingford rivals face off Saturday night in Northford
WALLINGFORD – Rivalry matches are always full of emotion, but that desire to win increases even more when both teams are good.
Which is exactly the case with Sheehan and Lyman Hall ice hockey.
Wallingford’s rivals are an 11-1 combined and he’s gearing up for a big SCC / SWC Division II clash at the Northford Ice Pavilion on Saturday night at 7:30 p.m.
Participation will be limited to immediate family members of players, but there should be no less intensity on the ice.
Lyman Hall is the host and enters the game with a 5-1 record and placed fourth in the CIAC Division II playoff points. Sheehan has an impeccable 6-0 record and ranks No.2.
This is the first of two regular season meetings between the rivals at Northford. Sheehan, who typically plays their home games at Choate, will be the home team when the schools meet again on February 19.
“It should be a very good game,” Lyman Hall coach Dave Sagnella said on Friday. “Sheehan is playing great and we’ll see what happens tomorrow.”
Sagnella said his side are entering the game after their best performance of the season so far, a 5-2 home win over East Catholic on Wednesday.
“It was a pure team effort,” said Sagnella. “Everyone has contributed, all three zones. We have some injuries and we have players playing bigger roles than expected.”
Sagnella mentioned that the Trojans defeated Guilford 3-2 on December 29 with 11 skaters.
LH will be without two defensemen on Saturday night, senior Kenny Mackenzie and junior Peyton Durant. In their places there was a combination of senior Aydan Durant, senior Zach Pettit and sophomore Louis Allanson.
Senior Jack Roberts (8 goals, 14 assists) provided most of the scoring with Pettit (2 goals, 9 assists) and Dylan Gay (9 goals, 6 assists).
Senior Ryan Arduini (1 goal, 3 assists) has also been a top player, although his contributions don’t always show up on the scoresheet.
“He’s off the charts with his positioning, and that helps a winning hockey team,” Sagnella said.
Freshman Dylan Florio is the Trojan goalkeeper. He just had one of his best performances of the season in the East Catholic contest.
“He’s learning,” Sagnella said. “He was cast to the wolves and he does a good job for us. We continue to support him from the start.”
Sagnella said Sheehan-Lyman Hall matches are usually decided by the team that makes the fewest mistakes.
“Sheehan has firepower,” Sagnella said. “They scored a lot of goals. They have good defenders who come back and are well trained. It’s always a good game. Emotions run high and we are preparing for the best in everyone.
Sheehan coach Dave Festa has said the Titans expect a close game.
“Every time we play it it’s always a good hockey game,” Festa said. “There’s a lot of familiarity on both sides. It’ll give you that extra push to win.”
Despite graduating from a decorated senior class, Sheehan is undefeated and has beaten his top six opponents 39-11.
Sheehan has also had his full roster available, with a few exceptions, all season. It is a luxury in these times.
“The team really came together,” Festa said. “We put together some good wins in the first half of the season. We had ups and downs, good games and bads. But we did manage a few wins.
Sheehan is stacked as a goalie with three talented goalies in junior Justin Lyon (3 starts), sophomore Michael Fritz (2) and senior Luca Mange (1).
Festa had not yet decided who will be in goal on Saturday night from Friday noon, but he said he was confident in all three.
“They compete in training and inspire a lot of confidence in the team,” said Festa. “It’s good to have options and they push each other.
“Overall the kids have come together as a group and we rely on them to do plays. It is a game-by-game situation to choose who plays. It’s about who gives us the best opportunity to win.
Freshman Max Festa (13 goals, 4 assists) is Sheehan’s top scorer. He scored three hat tricks in his first six college games of his career.
Senior Anthony DeFilio, who plays alongside Max Festa, is tied for second on the team with 13 points (3 goals, 10 assists).
Senior defender Brenden Hilinski also has 13 points (6 goals, 7 assists) and leads the team with a +28 rating.
Hilinski is leading a strong defense with fellow senior Jimmy Stratton and junior Billy Totz.
Festa said he knows the Titans are talented, but a 6-0 start is a nice surprise.
“I knew we were going to compete,” Festa said. “I thought this team had a strong core coming back. Our juniors and seniors have acquired a good experience in recent years and they have kept it this year.
“I didn’t think we would be where we are in the standings at this point, but I’m happy. I know we have work ahead of us. We understand this is a process. I think if we work hard we can compete with anyone in the state.
Festa said Lyman Hall presents a challenge for the Titans. He said they need to know where Roberts is whenever he’s on the ice.
“In these rivalry games, you make mistakes that you wouldn’t normally make,” Festa said. “We have to make sure we work through the process. We have a lot of young players who are not used to playing in bigger games. One of a lot of pre-game speeches is usually about dealing with emotions in a game. like this one.