NEW HAVEN — Wallingford owns its first high school ice hockey state championship, courtesy of two hometown boys and few of their good friends from Haddam-Killingsworth and Coginchaug.
Lyman Hall students Matt Pettit and Aidan Weir both scored twice Thursday night to lift the Lyman Hall Co-op to a 6-2 victory over cross-town rival Sheehan at Yale’s Ingalls Rink.
The Trojans rode the wave of momentum generated by three second-period goals to win the CIAC Division III championship played in front of a standing-room-only crowd.
Wallingford was assured of its first ice hockey title, with No. 2 seed LH and No. 4 Sheehan clashing in the Division III final. But it will be the Trojans who will bring home the town’s first high school ice hockey state title.
“This was the stage the guys wanted to be on, and they stepped up,” LH head coach Rich Minnix said. “Not to take anything away from Sheehan, they have a great team and great coach. We just got the better of them tonight.”
“We were a little slow tonight and they played a great game and I want to congratulate them on that and a great season,” said Sheehan coach Dave Festa. “They had us back on our heels. They were working hard and getting bounces. Unfortunately we hit a few pipes, a few went wide, and some came off the end of our sticks. They just played a very good game.”
Thursday was the third meeting of the year between the teams, who split their regular-season matchups. LH finishes with an 18-7 record, while Sheehan’s season ends at 19-6-1.
Coginchaug senior Jake Roberts also had a pair of goals and assists for LH, while sophomore goalie Andrew Sacco, who also goes to Coginchaug, made 32 saves.
Pettit had an assist as well in the win.
Junior Devin Napoli scored Sheehan’s first goal. He also assisted on sophomore Anthony Romano’s tally in the third period. Joe Romano and James Stratton assisted on Napoli’s goal.
Yes, the Trojans got contributions from players from all three schools that make up the LH Co-op. None, bigger, however, than the effort from its sophomore goalie.
“When he’s hot, he’s hot,” Minnix said of his goalie. “And nobody is hotter tonight than he was. He was just unbelievable. To step up on this stage and make the plays he made: just unbelievable.”
“I came into the game confident, even though everyone doubted us,” Sacco said. “When you doubt us, it just brings the best out of all of us.
“I knew I had to control my rebounds and my defense would do the rest.”
Outshot all night by the Titans, the Trojans got three pucks past Sheehan goalie Tyler Robertson (21 saves) in the second period to take control of the game. LH took the lead for good on just its sixth shot of the game, as Pettit scored unassisted just over four minutes into the period.
Weir then scored on the Co-op’s first power play to make it 3-1 at the 4:44 mark of the second period. Kyle Roberts made it 4-1 just 1:45 later.
When Roberts scored, the Trojans had been outshot by Sheehan 20-13. But Sacco had stopped all but one Sheehan shot to that point.
“People doubted us all year and we wanted to prove everyone wrong,” Roberts said. “It just feels great.”
Sheehan opened the second period on its second power play, which started with 34 seconds left in the opening period when Ryan Niemiec was called for slashing. The Titans, however, failed to get a puck past Sacco.
Sheehan was down 5-1 before Romano made it 5-2 with 10:01 to play.
LH, however, put the game on ice when Roberts scored his second goal with just under five minutes to play.
“You know, it’s been unbelievable and I wouldn’t trade it for anything,” said Sheehan senior captain Jake Festa. “It was awesome. We made it this far and we made some history. Congrats to Lyman Hall, but it’s been an unbelievable career that I wouldn’t trade for anything.”
The teams skated to a 1-1 draw after one period, but it was the Titans who had the better chances and ended up outshooting the Trojans 11-5.
On just its third shot of the game, LH took a 1-0 lead when Pettit re-directed a Kyle Roberts shot past Robertson at the 10:27 mark of the opening period. Sheehan answered on the game’s first power play when Napoli’s one-timer beat Sacco with 4:07 left in the period.
Sheehan’s first goal came just 19 seconds into a power play that was the result of Pettit being called for roughing. On the Titans’ first shot with an extra man, Napoli took a beautiful crossing pass from Luke Festa and buried his 20th goal of the season over the right shoulder of Sacco.
As expected, the potent Sheehan offense tested Sacco early. The Titans, who came into the final with 38 postseason goals, outshot the Trojans 5-1 in the game’s opening minutes. Napoli had four of those shots before his goal.
With the puck in the LH zone the majority of the period, the Trojans’ best chances early came on rushes by Roberts & Co.