By David Rooney
WALLINGFORD — The Sheehan hockey team skated to its 15th win of the season on Wednesday night, earning a comfortable 10-3 SCC/SWC crossover victory on home ice at Choate against a very shorthanded North Branford squad.
It was a night that featured career point No. 100 for Luke Festa and a hat trick for Joe Romano.
It was also the fourth time this season Sheehan, now 15-3-1, scored 10 or more goals in a single game.
The Titans got rolling against North Branford just three minutes into the game when junior Dylan Hennessey scored off a rebound. Stationed in front of the net, Hennessey scored from point-blank range before the defense could react.
Two minutes later, sophomore forward Dakota Cooper scored for North Branford to tie the game 1-1. Picking up a loose puck, Cooper had a one-on-one opportunity. His first shot was stopped, but Cooper recovered the puck and found the back of the net on his second try.
With 6:18 left in the period, junior Joe Romano scored his first goal of the game to break the tie and give Sheehan a 2-1 advantage.
Romano was assisted by Festa, who gained control of the puck after it had ricocheted around the boards. He passed it to Romano on the left side of the goal and the junior converted from mid-range.
“He’s one of those kids that’s able to control the play,” Sheehan coach Dave Festa said of his son. “He’s able to see the play one or two steps ahead of everybody else and kind of able to anticipate. He goes into the corners and comes out with the puck.
“The team just trusts him that he’s gonna get there and they get him the puck.”
Joe Romano added his own praise, simply calling Festa an “unreal player.”
Joe Romano is pretty good himself. Three minutes later after converting the feed from Festa, Romano scored again, this time off an assist from his brother Anthony, to extend Sheehan’s lead to 3-1.
Then, with just 12 seconds left in the first period, Festa scored a goal of his own assisted by both Romano brothers. That made the score 4-1 at the end of the first period.
Sheehan broke the game open in the second, out-scoring North Branford 6-1. Ryan Michonski scored for North Branford just 45 seconds into the period, but it was all Sheehan from that point on.
With 10:06 left, Joe Romano scored with 18 seconds left on a power play to complete his hat trick.
Romano said that even though North Branford was shorthanded, the Titans knew they needed to stay focused and not take the game for granted.
“We just had to go in playing our game,” Romano said. “Any opponent can beat us. We had to make sure that we played our game.”
The Titans also got scoring in that second period from Dayton Allderidge, Anthony Romano and Joe Richo. Anthony DeFilio had a pair of goals.
Midway through the second, Sheehan took out goalie Justin Lyon and put in Luca Mange. Coach Festa said it was important to make sure both goalies have playing experience going into the playoffs.
“The nice thing about tonight was we were able to get both Justin and Luca in there,” Festa remarked. “They both faced some tough shots.”
It was a relatively quiet third quarter for Sheehan, which spent a lot of time passing the puck around and limiting shots on net.
Festa made sure to get as many players into the game as he could in order to get them valuable experience moving forward. He also said he was impressed with the demeanor his main players demonstrated and how that showed the tight bond among his players.
“Our top two or three lines, when the other lines were out, those guys were their biggest cheerleaders, and that’s part of being a team,” Festa said.
Although the pace slowed down in the third period, Festa came up with creative ways to make sure his team stayed energized, focused and didn’t lose its edge.
“One thing we were doing was making challenges for ourselves, trying to stay focused and win the grey-area battles — getting the hockey plays and making sure that we were focusing on the fundamentals,” the coach said.
With 6:28 left in the game, North Branford junior defenseman Aiden Stoner scored an unassisted goal for the Thunderbirds (1-18-1) to cap the night.
Sheehan has one more regular-season game on the docket. That’s Saturday against the East Haven Co-op at Choate at 5 p.m. Beyond that, it’s the SCC/SWC Division III Tournament and the CIAC Division III state tournament.