NORTHFORD — After dropping its first two games, the Cheshire High School ice hockey team was heavily motivated going into Saturday’s SCC/SWC Division II contest against Sheehan at Northford Ice Pavilion.
The Rams came out fast to build a 2-0 lead and held a 3-1 advantage in the second period, but the Titans, ranked No. 7 in the GameTime CT state poll, showcased their offensive firepower in rallying to stay unbeaten at 5-0.
Between the second and third periods, Sheehan scored the game’s final six goals en route to earning a 7-3 victory. Seniors Joe Romano and Luke Festa both netted two goals for Sheehan, while senior Anthony Romano tallied a goal and three assists.
“They have a very good offensive team and showed that today,” said Cheshire coach Anthony Giusto. “Even though we’ve started 0-3, every team makes the SCC Tournament and we are looking to build throughout the year. We hope to see them (Sheehan) again later in the year.”
Penalties played a key role in Saturday’s game. Along with not committing a penalty, the Titans scored on two of four power plays in the last two periods.
“Power plays were one of the areas we focused on for this game,” said Sheehan coach Dave Festa. “We knew if we got those opportunities, we had to take advantage of them.”
In surrendering two power-play goals in each of their last three games, the Rams look to play cleaner the rest of the year.
“I don’t think it is a case of us being sloppy,” said Giusto. “When we play at maximum effort like we did in the first period, we don’t take those penalties, but when we get tired we start losing our feet and begin reaching for pucks.”
In what Giusto called Cheshire’s best period of the year, the Rams scored twice in the first on Saturday and stayed out of the penalty box. With 9:15 left in the frame, senior Aidan Gaudet netted the opening goal on passes from seniors Thor Novicelli and Cullen Wiley.
“It was good. I was excited to get us going,” said Gaudet, an assistant captain with Novicelli.
After his older brother put the Rams on the scoreboard, sophomore Will Gaudet stepped up to net the second goal with 5:43 remaining in the first. Senior captain Niklas Vasiljevs and senior Mark Lindner assisted on the goal, with Lindner picking up his first point.
“After he (my brother) scored, it got me pumped up to put the puck in the net,” said Will Gaudet.
Facing a deficit for the first time this season, the Titans regrouped at the end of the opening period. In one of their adjustments, junior goalkeeper Luca Mange came in for sophomore Justin Lyon.
“In the locker room, the message was that you are facing adversity for the first time and that we need to respond as a team,” explained Coach Festa.
The message was received. The Titans needed just 38 seconds to start their comeback in the second period. Joe Romano scored to cut the deficit in half, but Cheshire regained the two-goal edge when Novicelli put in a goal with 10:35 left in the second.
“At the time, it felt good to lift up the team and get the momentum back,” said Novicelli, whose goal was assisted by Vasiljevs and Aidan Gaudet.
The momentum was fleeting, as Sheehan capitalized on penalties to ignite their 6-0 run. The Rams received consecutive penalties for slashing and holding in the second, and while they killed off the first power play, the Titans turned the latter one into Joe Romano’s second goal to pull within 3-2 with 2:47 remaining in the second.
“Starting the second period, we said that we had to score and show what we can do,” stated Luke Festa, a Sheehan co-captain with Anthony Romano.
Cheshire kept the 3-2 lead through the end of the second, but took a roughing penalty at the end of the frame. With the power-play advantage to start the third, Sheehan tied the game 3-3 when junior James Stratton scored just 1:36 into the frame.
Cheshire was able to kill off a slashing penalty, but just five seconds later, Luke Festa scored what proved to be the game-winner with 10:27 remaining.
“You can’t keep committing penalties against a good team like that,” said Giusto.
From there, the Titans broke open the game with goals from Anthony Romano (4:12), Luke Festa (2:48) and senior Joe Richo (2:23).
Depth is one of Sheehan’s strengths. The Romano brothers combined for five assists on Saturday, but Luke Festa, Stratton, juniors Andry Guy and Brendan Hilinski, sophomore Avery Solan and senior Dylan Hennessey also set up goals.
Coach Festa complimented his third line for its work ethic on Saturday.
“Everybody talks about our first line, but we have so many guys who can contribute for us,” said Luke Festa.
On the strength of their power plays, Sheehan outshot the Rams 34-20. Cheshire junior goalkeeper Amaan Chaudhry made 27 saves. Lyon and Mange combined on 17.
Lyman Hall 4, East Haven Co-op 1: The Trojans scored three goals in the third period — two on the power play — to pocket the SCC/SWC Division II victory at Northford Ice Pavilion.
Despite out-shooting East Haven, Lyman Hall trailed 1-0 until Tommy Ralston converted a feed from Jack Roberts with 4:20 left in the second period.
Aidan Weir pushed the Trojans ahead 2-1 early in the third period. Zach Pettit and Roberts added insurance goals in the final six minutes.
Junior defenseman Kenny Mackenzie had two assists for the Trojans, who won their second straight and now stand at 3-1. They take on Watertown-Pomperaug on Wednesday at Northford before going head to head with rival Sheehan on Saturday night.