WALLINGFORD — The Sheehan hockey Titans suffered a heart-breaking defeat Saturday to the Daniel Hand Tigers in a thrilling SCC/SWC Division II game at Choate that featured nine goals and overtime.
With 1:31 left in the extra session, Hand’s Kevin Rich scored for a 5-4 victory that evened the Tigers’ record at 6-6-0 and dropped the Titans to 5-8-2.
Despite the result, it was Senior Day for the Titans and their seniors showed up to play. Kyle Robertson and Billy Totz scored, and goalkeeper Justin Lyon had several important saves that kept Sheehan in the game.
“They brought their leadership today, and that was one of the key things,” head coach Dave Festa said. “We played a very poor game against East Haven, so this was a bounce-back game. It was good to see that the boys came together and played a strong game today.”
The Titans started off slow, with a lot of neutral zone play throughout the first period, while Hand struck first with a goal by Ethan Bencivengo.
In the second period, it began to look bleak for Sheehan after a penalty gave the Tigers a power play. Instead, the Titans took advantage of being a man down, as star sophomore Max Festa scored a short-handed goal on a breakaway to tie the game at 1-1.
“We got the puck and got several good bounces on that one,” Coach Festa said. “We beat their defenseman pretty easily. It was good to get a short-handed goal and it was kind of a springboard from there.”
Coach Festa credited Garrett Wilkinson and Avery Solan for their role in the penalty kill.
“They did a great job,” he said. “It really set the tone for the team, so when the second unit came out there, they just picked up on that momentum and capitalized on it.”
Sheehan started to open it up after the short-handed goal. A few minutes later, the Titans went on a power play and Preston Cantele scored off assists by Landon Cantele and Wilkinson for a 2-1 Sheehan lead.
“We set the puck up well and got some bounces in front,” Coach Festa said. “Preston being there at the right time meant that good things were going to happen.”
Hand bounced back, with Rich scoring a crucial goal with only a few seconds left in the period to bring the game back even, 2-2.
A few minutes into the third period, the Tigers struck again on a goal by Trip Rizzo to take a 3-2 lead. It would be the first of four goals in the period.
Robertson scored a minute later to bring the score level at 3, but only a few seconds after Sheehan celebrated, Hand captain Ryan Pfaff scored to put the Tigers up 4-3.
The game went back-and-forth for a few minutes until Totz scored a beautiful long-range goal to tie the game at 4-4.
“We told him all day long, ‘Put the puck on net and good things are going to happen,’” Coach Festa said. “Billy was able to get the puck through the layers and it was a good outcome.”
With a few minutes left in regulation, Lyon made a couple of critical saves to keep the game tied and send it into overtime.
Unfortunately for Sheehan, despite several looks on goal, it was Hand who got the game-winner, with Rich netting his second goal of the day assisted by Rizzo.
“We were playing on our toes,” Coach Festa said about the performance of his team. “We were pressuring the puck a little bit, and in the second and third period we started to get some opportunities. We just couldn’t capitalize on some of those.”
Next up for Sheehan is the Round 2 with Lyman Hall. The rivals renew acquaintances on Wednesday night at Northford Ice Pavilion at 8:30 p.m. The Titans and Trojans played to a 2-2 tie in their last go-round on Jan. 16.