BEST OF THE BUNCH: Prolific scoring, leadership the marks of R-J hockey finalists

BEST OF THE BUNCH: Prolific scoring, leadership the marks of R-J hockey finalists



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We’ve got The Legacy, Cool-Hand Luke and the 200-Point Man.

And we’ve got the Energizer Bunny, too.

So if you’re looking to skate four a side, NHL-overtime style, even if it’s in someone’s backyard rink, we’re all in with Cheshire’s Niklas Vasiljevs, Sheehan teammates Luke Festa and Anthony Romano, and Lyman Hall’s Aidan Weir.

And, if the finalists for Record-Journal Ice Hockey Player of the Year are feeling charitable toward this old dude, I’ll park myself in the slot and wait for Festa to work his magic behind the net or for Weir to dig one out of the corner.

What’s that? Romano’s already out front, and he’s got better footwork and a way better shot?

True.

OK, how about now that 2020 R-J Player of the Year Nick Maringola is gone to the Eastern Hockey League, I play goalie?

Though I wouldn’t expect to see much action. We are definitely long on offense with our 2021 hockey final four. Combined, our finalists — senior forwards all — produced 44 goals and 62 assists this winter.

More importantly, they produced a combined won-loss record of 26-11 in the highly competitive loop that was SCC/SWC Division II. Take away the games in which they were beating up on each other, and our guys were 21-6.

So they knew how to score goals and they knew how to win. Just how much we’ll never fully know thanks to the pandemic, which cancelled the 2020 state tournament and shortened the 2021 season by nearly half and scrapped that state tournament, too.

But we saw enough to know who was in contention for 2021 Ice Hockey Player of the Year.

So did the conference coaches in the SCC/SWC, who named Sheehan’s Festa their Division II Player of the Year. Combining speed, stickwork and excellent vision, Festa led the 11-2 Titans with 20 goals and 16 assists.

He was on a lethal No. 1 line with Anthony Romano and Joe Romano, a trio that combined for 99 points in 13 games this season.

For his career, Festa tallied 55 goals and 137 points. He was named to the All-State Division III and SCC/SWC Division II first teams as a senior and will continue playing hockey at Hebron Academy in Maine.

A prime beneficiary of Festa’s play-making was Anthony Romano, who was finishing with authority as far back as his freshman year. 

Romano could dish it, too. In fact, this year, Anthony led the Titans in assists with 24.

His last one came in the SCC/SWC Division II quarterfinals: a pass across the crease that Festa tapped home. It was career point No. 200 for Romano, who became the first to reach that milestone in Sheehan hockey history.

For his career, Romano’s record reads 82 goals and 118 assists. As a senior, he was All-State Division III and All-SCC/SWC Division II First Team.

As for Niklas Vasiljevs, we call him “The Legacy” because he is the son of one-time professional player Herberts Vasiljevs. The son looks to keep the family tradition alive. He is expected to join his former teammate, Maringola, in junior hockey in the Eastern Hockey League.

In his senior season at Cheshire, Vasiljevs was the team’s captain for a second year and its leading scorer for a third, totalling seven goals and 13 assists in 2021.

The Rams struggled out of the gate, went into quarantine for two weeks, then emerged to finish strong, reaching the SCC/SWC Division II final.

Vasiljevs was named to the league’s Second Team. He gained a higher All-State nod: Division II First Team.

Vasiljevs also earned Cheshire’s Hobey Baker award, a recognition that each team hands out to one of its players for character. Aidan Weir earned Lyman Hall’s. He also received the SCC/SWC Division II Sportsmanship Award.

Weir played with class and he played awfully hard. There’s no question the captain was the heart and soul of the 10-3 Trojans, who returned to independent status after nearly a decade of co-opting.

Weir scored seven goals, assisted on nine and never stopped working. Coach Dave Sagnella called him the “Energizer Bunny” for a reason.

We’ll suit up the All-State and All-SCC/SWC Division II first-teamer. No doubt about it. With a guy like Weir, no need to worry about shift changes.


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