The Central Connecticut Youth Hockey Association added a third team in pursuit of national qualification when 15 Only became part of USA Hockey tournament play last season.
They needed just two years to get all three of the teams to the Chipotle-USA Hockey Youth Tier I Nationals at the same time.
CCYHA won USA Hockey New England District Tournament championships on the 16U and 15 Only level and received at at-large bid for the 18U tournament for its high national ranking.
The 18U and 16U teams are headed to West Chester, Pennsylvania, near Philadelphia, while the 15 Only team is off to Plymouth, Michigan, for the April 5-10 nationals.
The 16U team is back after going 2-1 at last year’s nationals with the only loss coming in pool play, 6-5, against eventual champion Compuware. It features many players from the 15 Only team that lost in the 2017 district semifinals in overtime to the eventual national champion Yale Bulldogs.
In this season’s November rematch for the district title, CCYHA won, 2-0, behind strong special teams play, getting a power-play goal in the first period and a short-handed goal in the second before relying on the penalty kill to protect the lead throughout much of the third period.
“We had a focused group that remembered from the year before and wanted to show what they were and how good they are,” hockey program director and 16U coach Devin Rask said in a telephone interview. “They really performed well and did not give up a lot against a really good Yale team, a lot of them who had won that national championship.”
The 15 Only team also had to overcome a loss to Yale. It won the Nov. 12 championship game, 4-1, just a day after losing to the Bulldogs, 4-3, in round-robin play at the district tournament.
The 18U team did not make it through a loaded New England District, getting knocked out during state play. It then had to keep proving its worthiness throughout the prep school winter season, leading to the national berth.
CCYHA is 43-10-1, including a current nine-game winning streak in which it outscored the opposition, 65-8.
“It was almost not a reality for us back in November,” 18U coach Matt Plante said of the fourth nationals berth in five years, according to a story on the school website, “but through their efforts, resolve, and perseverance of these 21 young men, they made it happen.”
All three teams feature five players who have already committed to Division I programs.
Kyle Haskins, who led the team with three assists in three games at 16U nationals last season, is headed to Michigan State. He is part of this season’s 18U team with Zachary Jones and Ryan Sullivan, who are headed to UMass-Amherst, as well as Conner Hutchison who is going to Vermont and Shane Pinto who is committed to North Dakota.
The 16U team has P.J. Fletcher and Ethan Phillips going to Quinnipiac, Josh Lawrence headed to Boston University, Ruben Rafkin to Denver and Jack Robilotti to Holy Cross.
The 15 Only commitments are Austin Cook (Vermont), Charlie Desroches and Jack Williams (Northeastern), Victor Czernecki Anair (Quinnipiac) and Nick DeSantis (Miami).
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Youth Tier I
14U: Mid-Fairfield Junior Rangers
18U: Yale Bulldogs
Youth Tier II
14U CT: New Canaan Wildcats
16U CT: Southern Connecticut Stars
14U NH: New Hampshire Avalanche
16U NH: New Hampshire Avalanche
14U RI: Providence Junior Friars
14U ME: Maine Moose
16U ME: Maine Moose
18U ME: Maine Moose
Girls Tier I
19U: Connecticut Polar Bears
Girls Tier II
14U: Hartford Junior Lady Wolfpack
16U: Vermont Shamrocks
19U: Concord Capital
The Yale Bulldogs are back in 18U Tier I after going 2-0-1 a year ago with only an overtime loss to Shattuck-St. Mary’s School keeping them from reaching the national semifinals.
Yale won a highly competitive New England District that included CCYHA by beating defending national champion Mid-Fairfield Chiefs, 5-3, in state play just to get to the district final.
The Bulldogs defeated the New Hampshire Avalanche, 4-0, in the district final.
“We jumped out quick 3-0 and then [Daniel] Dachille made some timely saves,” Bulldogs coach Jon Bellonio said.
Yale has not played as a team since that Nov. 13 win to qualify for nationals, but the high level of competition and performance has continued.
Andrew Lucas, Nicholas Hale, Peter Diliberatore and Albert Washco were all New England Prep School Athletic Conference all-stars at their various schools.
“For us, it’s just a little of getting that chemistry back that is sometimes a little of an Achilles’ heel,” Bellonio said. “We’ve had practice and the boys look pretty good.”
Mid-Fairfield also received an at-large bid, making it three Connecticut teams at 18U nationals.
14U Tier I
The Mid-Fairfield (Connecticut) Junior Rangers swept the New Hampshire Avalanche, 4-2 and 7-2, March 17-18 at Trinity College to win the district title.
The Junior Rangers are coached by two-time National Hockey League scoring champion and 2003-04 Most Valuable Player Martin St. Louis.
Around Tier II
Teams qualify for nationals by state in Tier II.
The Southern Connecticut Stars will play in the 16U tournament while the New Canaan Wildcats will represent the state on the 14U level.
The New Hampshire Avalanche are going in 16U and 14U. It was runner-up in 2A at 14U nationals last season.
Rhode Island is sending the Providence Junior Friars in 14U.
The Maine Moose won all three state titles to send 18U, 16U and 14U teams, but two other Maine teams were selected. The Casco Bay Mariners are part of the 18U tournament field while the Maine Moose made it in 14U.
Story from Red Line Editorial, Inc.
Tag(s): District Tourney News