WALLINGFORD — The town of Wallingford’s high school hockey programs shone bright after dark on Wednesday night.
Both Sheehan and the Lyman Hall Co-op opened 2019 in dominating fashion on home ice. The Titans raced past the Milford Co-op 7-1 at Choate, while the Trojans defeated Staples 4-1 at Northford Ice Pavilion.
The victories put Sheehan at 5-2 and LH at 3-2 in the standings. The rivals also rank at No. 6 and No. 8, respectively, in the CIAC Division III playoff points.
Sheehan, in its latest win, had its most prolific outing so far this season, piling up seven goals in just two periods.
The Titans were all over the Milford goaltender from the minute the puck dropped. Joe Romano scored early and James Stratton and Jake Festa connected before the first period was over.
Festa’s goal was start of a hat trick completed in the second period.
“He was in the right spots at the right time tonight,” said Festa’s father, Sheehan head coach Dave Festa. “It’s a good achievement for a senior captain.”
Anthony Romano and Joey Richo also scored in the second period as Sheehan pushed its lead to 7-0. Brett Pisani scored Milford’s lone goal in the third period.
For the Titans, Wednesday’s win followed victories over Shepaug Valley (5-1), Masuk (5-0), McMahon-Norwalk (4-0) and Enfield-East Granby-Stafford (3-2). Their losses were to Division II programs: Cheshire (2-1) and the six-school East Haven Co-op (3-2).
“We came together tonight as a team,” Coach Festa said after the Milford win. “We were playing our systems and beating them to the puck and winning the small games. I think that was the difference tonight.”
The Lyman Hall Co-op, meanwhile, stifled Staples with defense. The Wreckers managed to put just one shot on goal during the latter part of the second period and didn’t get a single shot on goal during the third as the LH defense had no let up.
The Trojans did start off their game slower than Sheehan did. They looked out of sync at times during the first period, though a goal from Matt Pettit did allow them to skate into the second period with a 1-0 lead.
The advantage was short-lived. Staples’ Tyler Mace tied the game with a goal early in the period.
Around the six-minute mark in the second period, something clicked for the Trojans and they began to swarm any and all Staples attackers.
The defensive stops led to extra opportunities on offense. Jack Roberts took advantage of one and snaked the puck into the net to give LH a 2-1 lead by the end of the second period.
Although the lead was safe thanks to the defensive efforts, the Trojans continued to attack and gained insurance on goals by Ryan Brockett and Aidan Weir.
“I thought we were absolutely atrocious during the first period. We just couldn’t get going; but during the second and third period we played Trojan hockey,” said LH coach Rich Minnix. “First on the puck, hard on the forechecks and it turned out great for us in the end. I think we gave up one shot during the last period and half of the game, and that’s a recipe to win a hockey game.”
The win was the second straight for the Co-op, which buried Daniel Hand 7-2 on Dec. 26 behind a Pettit hat trick.
Like Sheehan, LH’s two losses were to Division II programs, Cheshire (3-2) and Branford (5-3). The Trojans opened the season with a 5-4 win over yet another D-II opponent, North Haven.
The Trojans look to stay hot at home when they host Stamford/Westhill at Northford on Saturday at 1:30 p.m. Sheehan travels to Norwich to face the Redhawks at 6:20 p.m.
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