NORTHFORD — It will be one of Connecticut’s most closely watched high school hockey divisions over the next seven weeks, deservedly so and by default.
SCC/SWC Division II, middle tier of the hockey alliance between the Southern Connecticut and South-West conferences, looms an 11-team hornet’s nest for 2021. Not only is D-II buzzing with backyard rivalries, seven of the 11 teams are calling the Northford Ice Pavilion home this season.
Under the microscope and under one roof: There will be no mysteries this season, save for who emerges as division champ at the end of the line.
Reigning conference king Branford, the 2019 Division II state champ, is in the mix. So is Daniel Hand, the only Division II team ranked in GameTime CT’s preseason state poll.
Cheshire has long been a D-II mainstay. Lyman Hall was promoted after winning the state Division III title in 2019. Sheehan, abounding in talent, chose to move up this season.
Amity, North Branford, North Haven, Guilford, Watertown-Pomperaug and the East Haven Co-op round out the card.
After a 12-game regular season, every team will advance to the division championship tournament.
In lieu of a state tournament — the CIAC cancelled its postseason to maximize playing opportunities for all teams in this abbreviated season — the SCC/SWC Division II battle royale takes on added weight. It is the be-all and end-all
“SCC Division II every year is always one of the best, if not the best, Division II conferences in the state,” remarked Cheshire coach Anthony Giusto. “It’s a different year. We’re not having a state tournament, but if you end up winning SCC Division II, it’s pretty much guaranteed you’re one of the best teams in the state.”
Cheshire is one of the few SCC/SWC Division II teams not based out of Northford Ice Pavilion this season. With their usual home digs at Wesleyan University not available due to the pandemic, the Rams relocated to Hamden’s Lou Astorinio Rink.
Sheehan, Lyman Hall, Hand, Branford, North Branford, North Haven and the East Haven Co-op will compete on the Northford ice.
Lyman Hall is an independent for the first time since 2012. With strong roster numbers, the Trojans dissolved their co-op with Haddam-Killingworth and Coginchaug.
“I see us being very competitive,” Lyman Hall coach Dave Sagnella said. “I know a lot of people are putting Hand, Sheehan and North Haven as the teams to beat in Division II. We’re going to be one of those pesky teams. You’re not going to be able to focus on one player and shut us down.”