The Division 2 tier of the Southern Connecticut Conference/South West Conference will feature 11 teams for 2021, with Sheehan opting to play a tougher schedule this season. The Titans (last year’s Division 3 conference champ) will join expected favorites Daniel Hand and North Haven, with Division 2 champion Branford expected to still be a factor in the race.
All SCC/SWC Division 2 teams are expected to play the others at least once in conference play during this abbreviated season.
The Spartans missed the Connecticut Division 2 tournament a year ago, but coach Michael Richetelli hopes he has an upperclass squad to continue to build as he enters his fourth season.
A solid senior class features forwards Justin Miller and Tommy Schittina, as well as defensemen Caleb Marcin, Jason Dittmann and Dylan Gherlone. Richetelli says he will be looking for leadership from this group.
The Spartans will be backboned by a pair of sophomores in net in Brendan Smith and Aiden Courtney.
Richetelli also expects a trio of juniors – Joey Carangelo, Dom Harris and Kyle Hummel – to make contributions this season.
The Hornets were the top seed in the Division 2 state tournament a year ago and well positioned to push for Yale and potentially win it all. Now comes the 2021 campaign, and the Hornets lost several key players off that dominant squad, but coach Jim DiNapoli does return some experience.
Most notable among them is four-year starter Jared Yakimoff in net. In a bit more of a rebuilding mode for the team, the Hornets will be looking for Yakimoff to be the rock in the defensive end following his 2020 season in which he was named second team all-SCC/SWC. Senior Billy Linder will lead the way on the blue line.
Seniors Dan Farricielli and Sawyer Moriarty lead the forward attack, and sophomore Matt Morgan also returns following a strong freshman campaign.
The Rams will take on a bit of a different look this season for coach Anthony Giusto, particularly following the graduation of standout goalie Nick Maringola.
But the top four scorers are back from last season, led by seniors Niklas Vasiljevs (13-11-24) – a second-team all-SCC/SWC selection – as well as Aidan Gaudet (7-13-20) and Thor Novicelli (7-8-15). Freshman Evan Vasiljevs and sophomore Rocco Ocone Krause will look to add depth.
Defensively, Giusto will look to seniors Mike Donato and Cullen Wiley, as well as sophomore Gabe Magriz, as the Rams turn to juniors Amaan Chaudhry and Evan Cille to fill the void in net.
DANIEL HAND (18-2-1)
Hand was in position for a deep run in the postseason a year ago as the No. 2 seed in the Division 2 bracket. Now that squad returns 17 players, including eight seniors, for third-year coach Brian Gonsalves.
Few players could match the scoring firepower of senior Tatum Fitzmaurice (30-37-67), a first-team all-SCC/SWC selection last season, and he will be supported well once again by seniors Ethan Massey (16-16-32) and Logan Massey (13-12-25).
Senior Eric Dillner is coming off a huge season in net, in which he had a 1.50 GAA, .940 save percentage and five shutouts. Helping him on the back end for the Tigers will be senior John Gagliardi (6-9-15), a second-team all-SCC/SWC pick, and junior Kevin Sandor (4-14-18).
“Feeling very strong about this year’s team,” Gonsalves said.
EAST HAVEN (8-13-0)
The Hornets are another team that will have to replace their graduated veteran goalie, in addition to the top scorer from a season ago. But veteran coach Lou Pane has the majority of the roster back as the Hornets will look to push for the upper half of the league race.
Seniors David Amatruda, Cory Benni and Josh Penn, along with junior Duncan Rider, will look to pick up the offensive load this season.
Defensively, look to seniors Rocco Plano and Cam Grillo to lead the way in front of a new starting goalie, junior Ethan Roach.
The Grizzlies will need to replace more than half their goal production from a season ago, but coach Ralph Russo has plenty of experience back to try to pick up the slack.
Seniors Kent Mackowiak, Thomas Ring and Zach Sperry are the top returning forwards for the Grizzlies, along with junior Michael Torre. Sophomore Leo Hergan and freshman Logan Bertrand have the potential to contribute right away.
Junior Gavin Litvyn is back for his second full season in goal for the Grizzlies. Senior Steven Tortora and sophomore Shane Considine will patrol the blue line.
LYMAN HALL (11-9-1)
After previously playing as a co-op program with Haddam-Killingworth and Coginchaug, the Trojans will be flying solo under the Lyman Hall banner this season for coach Dave Sagnella.
The Trojans return seniors Aidan Weir (4-14-18) and Tommy Ralston (3-10-13) at forward, along with junior Jack Roberts (12-16-28). On the defensive end, senior Ryan Brockett (4-10-14) and junior Kenny Mackenzie lead the way for a pair of senior goalies – Brendan Reddington and Colin Stoddard.
Sagnella says the keys for the Trojans this season will be aggressive play in all three zones, and working as a team to protect the net. “We will not be a flashy team, but will be fundamentally sound,” he said.
NORTH BRANFORD (1-18-1)
Coming off a tough 2020 season, coach Ralph Shaw enters this season with a group of 11 freshmen as the Thunderbirds look to rebuild.
Shaw will be looking for senior forward Nick Poulin (15-8-23) to set the tone for the younger group. Meanwhile, the likes of Joe Marra, Aidan Stoner and Tyler Waligroski anchor the blue line.
“With a young group we are focusing on team play and unity,” Shaw said.
The Indians were SCC/SWC Division 2 runner-up last season and had advanced past the first round of the state tournament when things ground to a halt. Now with 20 players back from that squad, coach Christopher Avena is expecting big things out of this group in the league race.
The veteran cast includes senior goalie Andrew Sacco (2.00 GAA), and a pair of senior defensemen in Nick Howlett (2-1-3) and Justin Marks. Offensively the Indians will be led by seniors Aaron Racino (13-8-21), Eli Brubacher (8-13-21), Mason Sullivan (10-3-13) and Will Fiore (8-4-12).
“In a year where meeting as a team and going over systems and film study will be challenging and different than any other season, our experience should be an advantage,” Avena said. “Also, our depth at every position will benefit us.”
After three consecutive SCC/SWC Div. 3 championships, and earning the top seed in last year’s Div. 3 state tournament, the Titans and coach Dave Festa opted to play up a division this season, and will be the lone Division 3 squad among the group. Festa said that with the lack of a state tournament, he is welcoming the challenging and believes he has the experienced and well-rounded squad to challenge their Div. 2 rivals.
Five of the team’s top six scorers returning, including the impressive senior trio of Anthony Romano (25-30-55), Joe Romano (35-17-52) and Luke Festa (18-31-49). The defense will be led by junior James Stratton and seniors Brendan Connery and Tony Sitro.
Freshman Michael Fritz is among three goalies fighting for the starting spot in preseason, according to Festa. Other newcomers include freshman forward Landon Cantele, and juniors Andry Guy and Anthony Defilio.
“The players are happy to get on the ice again,” Festa said. “With a strong offseason regimen, the Titans are geared up and ready to play.”
It was a rare down year for the Indians program in 2020, but a strong returning group battled through it a year ago and brings back plenty of experience to try to climb back toward the .500 mark and beyond for coach Vic Vicenzi.
The defensive end should be a strong point for W-P with senior Tom Leonard, as well as juniors Spencer Ances and Joey Meglio all back. Senior Owen Gallagher and sophomore Carly Bokina are a pair of solid goaltenders who will battle for playing time.
Senior Ryan Magee, and juniors Matt Christina and Robert Lubus are the top returnees at forward.