RIVALRY WEEK: New look, yet same heat for Titans and Trojans

RIVALRY WEEK: New look, yet same heat for Titans and Trojans

WALLINGFORD — Lyman Hall and Sheehan stage Round 1 of their winter rivalries this week and, of course, it’s a whole new look.

Basketball and hockey players in masks. Gyms and rinks devoid of raucous fans. Doubleheaders out, single games in.

But the pandemic can’t squelch the Wallingford rivalry entirely nor rob it of drama, even if most fans will have to settle for livestreams to take it all in.

Three Wallingford teams enter the week without a loss. One team will be making its season debut. At least one player is on the verge of a career milestone.

It all starts Monday night when the boys and girls basketball teams tip-off at 7 p.m. The boys will be at Lyman Hall, the girls at Sheehan.

Then comes Saturday night and the hockey hoedown at Northford Ice Pavilion between 5-0 Sheehan and 3-1 LH. Face-off there is 7:30 p.m.

Monday’s girls basketball game marks the season debut for LH coach Tom Lipka and his Lady Trojans. They had to go into quarantine for two weeks starting Feb. 1 after being exposed to someone who tested positive for COVID-19.

They returned to practice this past week and are at full health.

“It had been a while since we had that first practice,” Lipka said after running his team through a final preseason tuneup on Sunday. “We’re excited to play tomorrow.”

In the meantime, their rivals got four games under their belts. Not only that, Sheehan coach Mike Busillo’s Titans won all four, most recently on Saturday in Milford against Jonathan Law, 60-49.

Caitlyn Velez posted her first career triple-double to lead the way. The senior point guard scored 13 points, grabbed 10 rebounds and dished 14 assists.

The prime beneficiaries of those Velez assists were her senior teammates, guard Hayleigh Lagase and center Caitlyn Hunt. Lagase popped five 3-pointers and finished with a game-high 19 points. Hunt, the team’s scoring leader at 14.75 points a game, had 14.

These Sheehan seniors will be looking for a career sweep of LH. The last time the Trojans beat the Titans in girls basketball was Dec. 22, 2016. Sheehan has won seven straight since.

The boys streak for Sheehan stands at four. It could be in jeopardy. Coach Rob Ruys and his Trojans will be on their home court and they stand at 3-0 courtesy of wins over Daniel Hand, Branford and Hamden.

Senior point guard Ty Voisine has been the guiding hand. He leads the Trojans at 17.6 points a night.

Sheehan is at 2-2 led by senior Jack McDonnell (23.5 ppg). Coach Joe Gaetano’s Titans, though, are coming off a night of frustation on Saturday. They lost at home to Jonathan Law, 59-37, and McDonnell was left one point shy of 1,000 for his career.

The hockey clash to cap the week on Saturday night is also must-see livestream. Recent history bears it out. The last three meetings between Lyman Hall and Sheehan featured the 2019 Division III state championship (won 6-2 by LH), a 5-5 draw at Northford and a 6-5 Sheehan win at Wesleyan (on Anthony DeFilio’s goal with 3:22 to play).

Coach Dave Festa’s 2021 Titans are ranked No. 7 in the GameTime CT poll. They improved to 5-0 with Saturday’s 7-3 win over Cheshire.

That game offered the latest proof of how explosive Sheehan can be.

Down 3-2 going into the third period, the Titans erupted for five goals.

Led by the top line of Anthony Romano, Joe Romano and Luke Festa, yet getting contriibutions up and down the lineup, Sheehan has 33 goals on the season — an average of better than six a game.

Lyman Hall, which will tune up on Wednesday against Watertown-Pomperaug, stands at 3-1 after erasing early deficits to defeat North Branford 5-2 last Wednesday and the East Haven Co-op 4-1 on Saturday.

Goalie Brendan Reddington and the defense have allowed just eight goals. Jack Roberts (5G, 6A), Aidan Weir (3G, 4A) and Tommy Ralston (3G, 2A) lead the offense.

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