Connecticut D3 Tourney Preview: E.O. Smith/Tolland, Masuk headed for showdown?

Michael Fornabaio
Michael Fornabaio
Michael writes for Hockey Night in Boston, covers the Bridgeport Sound Tigers for the Connecticut Post, and once covered the Beast of New Haven. He grew up at the New Haven Coliseum. Story, blog links @BSTSoundinOff blog.ctnews.com/fornabaio.

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Just 11 and a half months ago, Masuk and E.O. Smith/Tolland met at Ingalls Rink. Are they two weeks away from meeting there again, a few days later in the month?

They’re the top two seeds in the CIAC Division III tournament (http://content.ciacsports.com/brackets/ihoc2015III.html), on target for a meeting in the final this time instead of the semifinal, which E.O. Smith won 3-2 last year. They’re the favorites, with the Bucks’ only losses coming to Division II teams, with Masuk unbeaten in Division III until the last game of the regular season and featuring lots of playoff experience.

But there are teams that can easily give them a run. Third-seeded Westhill, for instance, which has taken down a few Division II teams. Fourth-seeded New Fairfield/Immaculate, which never got going in a 5-0 loss to Masuk in the SCC/SWC final but played the Panthers tough in two regular-season games.

Sheehan finally got a chance to breathe after a grueling weather-induced finish, 11 games in 22 days; can the Titans regain some of their early-season form? They’ll have to get past NFA/St. Bernard/Bacon Academy, which beat Masuk on the last day of the regular season and could see the Panthers again in Round 2 if Masuk gets by the Eastern Connecticut Eagles. Housatonic/Northwestern/Wamogo starts with Tri-Town, which went 1-0-1 against the Mountaineers, and the winner of that could get Westhill, or Hall/Southington, which kept some tough teams close.

The top half of the bracket features E.O. Smith/Tolland against Newtown in the 1-16 matchup. Coincidentally, that was the Division III final last year; Newtown won in overtime but turned over most of its roster. The winner gets one of two teams that had strong second halves, Staples/Weston/Shelton or Barlow. NFI draws Woodstock Academy, which played well in its second varsity season, and the winner will get the victor from another matchup of teams that improved late, Brookfield/Bethel/Danbury or Shepaug/Litchfield/Nonnewaug.

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