Time flies for the Titans; North Haven holds on to beat Sheehan in SCC / SWC Division II semi-final
NORTHFORD – Sheehan’s hockey season ended Wednesday night when the No.2 Titans lost to third-seeded North Haven 3-2 in the CSC / SWC Division II semi-finals at the Northford Ice Pavilion .
The Titans had the opportunity to tie the game in the dying seconds, “but couldn’t get the puck to rebound,” said head coach Dave Festa.
After the Indians froze the puck, and with the ensuing faceoff in the attacking zone, Festa called goaltender Justin Lyon out in favor of an additional skater. Even with six sticks firing shots, the North Haven defense, anchored by Andrew Sacco between the posts, held on to the last horn.
“We fought until the end,” Festa said. “We didn’t have a lot of rebounds today that we normally get. I give our team a lot of credit for staying in there, hanging on to the last buzzer and really fighting until the end.
For a while there was hope of a return. Down 3-1 with 4:18 to go, Luke Festa brought the Titans down to one score. With a delayed penalty, the Titans played on the sidelines with the puck until Joseph Romano gave the score to Festa on the left side of the net.
These turned out to be the last points the two seniors would register as Sheehan Titans.
“They’ve had one hell of a career,” Festa said of his seven oldest children. “They really put Sheehan on the map for us. Being mentioned in the Top 10 for most of the season in the State is certainly a testament to the seniors and then the rest of the squad who came out to train every day and worked their butt.
The Titans struck first in the opening frame. At 8:02 am, amid the chaos in front of the net, senior Dylan Hennessey scoured the mess to rebound and return the puck to Sacco, lifting over the goaltender’s left shoulder for the first lead.
Michael Fritz, Sheehan’s freshman, started against Sacco and threw a shutout in the busy opening period. North Haven shot shot after shot, but nothing topped the youngster, until the second period came.
It took an offensive mistake to bring down the Titans. After a roll and a roll from Sheehan into the offensive zone, North Haven’s Jake Hines crossed the center rink to chase the puck. Only Fritz stood between him and the net.
Sheehan defenseman Anthony Sitro deployed a full extension to trip Hines, who slipped into the net. The official awarded a penalty shot to Hines, who he shot across the ice before sending the top puck down the short side to tie the game to one with 10:29 left in the period. .
“I think our defender made a good play on that,” Festa said. “It was an offensive zone error that turned into a defensive zone opportunity for them.”
Fritz’s youth started showing from there. After a pad stop at 8:46, Tommy Guidone gave the Indians the lead when Fritz’s right leg came just before saving the rebounded shot.
Twenty-seven seconds later, Mason Sullivan cleared the puck with a scrimmage for a point. Lyon relieved Fritz at the net and inherited a 3-1 deficit the Titans would never overcome.
“As a rookie it’s also kind of a learning experience, coming to the playoffs with a lot of playoff pressure,” Festa said. “It really wasn’t a loss of confidence in Michael (Fritz). It was just looking for a spark for the team to see what we could do to make things happen.
Lyon, a sophomore, held the Indians scoreless the rest of the time in what Festa called a ‘bittersweet loss’, imploring that a one-goal loss shouldn’t define the entire season.
The Titans finished the season at 11-2. They had won the last three SCC / SWC Division III championships before moving to Division II this year.
“It’s frustrating and disheartening, but I’m very proud of these guys in what they’ve done and accomplished this year and throughout their careers,” said Festa.
North Haven (6-2) qualifies for Saturday’s championship game at Bennett Rink in West Haven at 4 p.m. The Indians face the winner of Wednesday night’s second semi-final between Lyman Hall and Cheshire.