WALLINGFORD — Led by a huge performance from freshman Anthony Romano, the fourth-seeded Sheehan ice hockey team defeated No. 13 Daniel Hand 7-3 Monday night at Choate’s Remsen Arena in the first round of the CIAC Division III Tournament.
Romano scored four goals and senior defenseman Nick Gonsalves added a pair as the Titans, fresh from their run to the SCC/SWC Division III conference crown, defeated Hand for a third time this season.
With the win, the Titans advance to the state D-III quarterfinals, where they’ll meet the Eastern CT Eagles on Thursday at Northford Ice Pavilion at 5:30 p.m.
On Monday night at Choate, it didn’t come easy. Hand (5-17) put up a far stiffer fight than it had in the two previous meetings with Sheehan (19-4). The Titans saw a 3-1 first-period lead narrow to 3-2 in the second before pulling away with a four-goal third.
“It was definitely good to get the win out of that,” said Sheehan head coach Dave Festa. “We struggled a little bit certain periods of the game and that team came ready to play. That put us back on our heels for a little while, but it was certainly good to see in the third period we regrouped.”
It didn’t take long for the scoring to begin in this one as both teams came out firing on net. The Tigers struck first not even four minutes into the game on a goal by Paul Gagliardi.
After Gagliardi’s goal, Sheehan dominated the rest of the period. Romano got his first goal of the night to tie things up and Nick Spina followed shortly after by squeaking the puck past Hand’s goalie to give Sheehan the lead.
Before the first period came to an end, Romano struck again for his second goal of the game and Sheehan led 3-1.
The second period was much more defensive for both sides. Hand managed the only goal in the period as Andrew Pomeroy scored to pull the Tigers to within 3-2.
Sheehan had opportunities to score. Hand was whistled for four penalties in the period and Sheehan put some shots on the goal, but the Tigers’ keeper managed to stop the puck from getting past him.
Momentum was on Hand’s side after a strong second period. A tying goal might have completely turned the tide. Instead, almost two minutes into the third period, Romano smacked in another goal to complete his hat trick and, not even a minute later, Gonsalves made 5-2.
Hand kept fighting, but the offense couldn’t finish. Romano scored his fourth goal to make it a four-goal lead. Hand’s Brendan Ryan scored a goal to make the game 6-3.
In desperation mode at the end, the Tigers pulled their goalie for an extra skater, but it resulted in an easy opportunity for Gonsalves to drive the final nail in the Hand coffin.
Joe Romano and Luke Festa each had three assists as the Titans advance to face the No. 5 Eastern CT Eagles in Thursday’s quarterfinals.
That game will be a rematch. The Eagles and Titans tangled on Feb. 14 at Connecticut College and the host Eagles won 3-1.
“We know Eastern is going to be a great game,” said Coach Festa. “I think it’s a very fast game and a very disciplined game, so we’re going to have to play a full 45 minutes against them.”
“We’re going to be focused for Thursday,” said Anthony Romano. “We lost to them a couple of weeks ago and we’re looking to get revenge and move on to Ingalls.”