WALLINGFORD — Sheehan coach Dave Festa had never been a part of a hockey game that went three overtimes.
Then came Thursday night’s CIAC Division III quarterfinal against Tri-Town at Trinity College.
The No. 3 Titans and No. 11 Knights stood tied 2-2 through 45 minutes of regulation, one 15-minute overtime and a second 15-minute overtime.
Finally — but unfortunately for Festa and the Titans — the marathon ended with a Tri-Town goal 5:05 into the third OT.
That’s 80:05 of game time — almost continuous game time. There were just two penalties called all night, both on Sheehan.
“There were very few whistles and the clock kept running,” Festa noted.
The game, the second in a quarterfinal doubleheader Thursday night at Trinity, started a little past its scheduled 7:30 start time. It ended shortly after 11 p.m.
“I’ve never been in a game like that before,” Sheehan senior Christian Giacondino said Friday. “It was really a big team-building moment and it was an incredible experience to take part in even though we weren’t happy with the outcome.”
The Sheehan/Tri-Town epic was the state’s first triple overtime hockey game since Bolton-Coventry-Lyman Memorial edged St. Bernard’s-Old Lyme-Bacon Academy by the same 3-2 score in a 2007 Division III quarterfinal.
Neither, however, is the state’s longest hockey game of all-time. The record belongs to Notre Dame-Fairfield and New Canaan, who went five leg-numbing overtimes in the 1999 Division I championship game before ND pulled out a 3-2 victory.
On Thursday, overtime did not initially seem imminent. Sheehan trailed 2-0 heading into the third period. That’s when the Titans came alive, tying the game within 4:41 on goals by Mike Cerrotti and Sal Gozzo.
“The first two goals they got, one was on a deflection off of one of our defenders and the other just trickled in. We felt they hadn’t earned their goals,” Festa said. “You could see going into the third our team confidence was starting to grow. We got momentum after the first goal and they were right there. The kids pulled together.”
After Gozzo’s goal tied it, the overtimes kept coming and both goalies stepped up their game. Sheehan’s Carly Femniak made 48 saves, including one on a breakaway in the second OT. Her counterpart, Alex Bliesner, made 58 stops.
That’s 106 total saves on 111 total shots.
One the last, Tri-Town’s Tyler Hughes banged in a rebound off an initial shot by Rudy O’Konis. The puck was loose out front and Sheehan failed to clear.
“We knew the winning goal wasn’t going to be a pretty goal,” Festa said. “I told my team after the game to hold their heads up high and they hung right in there. It’s tough to come out on the losing end of that. It was a bitter pill to swallow.”
Giacondino said he was exhausted after the game, which ended Sheehan’s season at 15-7-1.
“It was the best season I’ve ever had at my four years at Sheehan and one of the best seasons Sheehan has produced in recent years with the number of wins we had,” Giancondino said.
True that. The 15 wins were the most since Sheehan’s 17-6 campaign of 2008, when the Titans reached the Division II semifinals. In the ensuing years, the T-Men never finished higher than .500 until going 11-10 last winter.
Festa said in the past the Titans were led by one or two standouts. That was not the case this year, when six different players scored 10 or more goals.
“This was more of a team effort throughout the year,” Festa said. “We had five or six guys that had a good amount of goals and assists. Our goal production was very strong. We were 20 percent on power play and 85 percent on the penalty kill. Carly grew with confidence as the season went on. It was a strong season.”