Two teams with a local flare will be meeting up to play in the Division III ice hockey semifinals tonight at Ingalls Rink in New Haven. Wethersfield-Middletown-Rocky Hill-Plainville, the second-seeded team, and No. 6 seed Hall-Southington each won their first two games in the tournament and will now battle for the right to play in the Division III championship on Saturday morning.
Here is a look at each team:
WMRP has had a fantastic season as it finished the regular season 17-3. The Eagles are led by senior goalkeeper Stephen Vaughan who has allowed just 34 goals on the year. Vaughan averages nearly 20 saves per game and has a goals against average of just 1.5.
Vaughan’s standout season coupled with a strong offense has been the key for WMRP. The Eagles average four goals per game and are led by Paul Wheatley. The senior has scored 26 goals on the year, nine of which have been game-winning goals. Both numbers are easily best on the team.
But Wheatley is just one of five players to have double-digit goals this season. Zac Forrest is one of those other players and is the team leader in points with 40. The senior has accrued 12 goals and 28 assists so far this year. The other double-digit goal scorers are Ben Mroczka (14), Paul Ciarcia (10) and Tyler Piecewicz (10).
So far in the postseason, WMRP has taken care of 15th-seed Eastern CT Eagles and seventh-seeded NFA. The first-round game was an easy one as WMRP defeated the Eastern CT Eagles 6-0. Round two was a much tougher game as the Eagles held off the Redhawks in a 3-1 win.
Hall-Southington has had an up and down season but has found its stride at the right time. The Warrior-Knights finished the regular season with a 9-8-3 record which tied them for the fifth most points in Division III but it lost the tiebreaker to Lyman Hall-Haddam-Killingworth-Coginchaug which dropped them to the sixth seed.
Hall-Southington is led by junior goalie Zach Monti and senior captains Jeremy Fortin, Dusty Kilgore and Jacob Herz. Junior Drew Booth is another captain who plays a major role on the ice.
The Warrior-Knights were actually extremely close to being eliminated in the opening round of the tournament. Hall-Southington’s first opponent was No. 11 seed Newington-Berlin, a team it had already beaten twice, but the game was not easy.
The Warrior-Knights outscored the Indians 6-2 in their two regular season meetings but were down 3-1 in the third period of the first-round tournament game. Hall-Southington would go on to tie the game up and win it in overtime to move on.
The second-round game was not quite as difficult for the team as it faced off against third-seeded Housatonic-Northwestern. The Warrior-Knights dominated to the tune of a 6-1 victory and should enter this game feeling confident.
WMRP and Hall-Southington have already faced off twice this season with the Eagles coming out on top both times. In the first meeting, WMRP pulled out a close win in a high scoring affair with the final score ending up 6-5. The second meeting, a Hall-Southington home game, was not quite as close as WMRP won comfortable, 4-1.
The Eagles have been consistently great all season so they should be the favorites to win, especially considering the two previous wins this season. Hall-Southington though, is coming off a big win over a good team and, as its first-round matchup with Newington-Berlin showed, it is not easy to beat a team three times in a season. Both teams enter tonight playing well so this should be an interesting game to watch.
Michael Woolfson can be reached at 860-801-5203 or email@example.com
On Twitter: @Bigwoolf5