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Welcome to the New Haven Register high school sports blog where our talented staff of Chris Hunn, Joe Morelli, Dan Nowak and Mike Pucci will keep you up to date on everything to do with high school sports in Connecticut. Mike Pucci's Gridiron Glory blog for high school football remains. We hope you enjoy and feel free to join in the conversation.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Boys' hockey pairings released-SCC the league to beat

Here's a link to the CIAC hockey pairings.

The Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference, the governing body of high school sports in the state, released the pairings today for the Division I, II and III boys' hockey tournaments.
Looking at the competition, matchups, seedings and brackets, the titles will likely come down to the chalk (favorites, top 3-4 seeds) in each division.

When it is all said and done, this year's CIAC tournament could be a special one for the Southern Connecticut Conference in all three divisions. An impressive 14 of the 16 teams in the SCC (all divisions combined) have qualified for the postseason.

In Division I, who can beat top seed West Haven, No. 2 seed Fairfield Prep or No. 4 seed and defending champion Hamden? All three SCC teams have depth, strong goalies and are coming off strong regular-season schedules that have prepared them for this point in the season.

No. 3 seed New Canaan has been on a roll this season and should be the toughest team to represent the southern part of the state. No. 6 Glastonbury and No. 8 Tri-Town will be the teams to beat in the north. But with due respect to those teams who are all extremely well coached, their strength of schedule doesn't quite match up to the aforementioned SCC teams of Prep, Hamden and West Haven.

The D-I wildcard? No. 5 Notre Dame-Fairfield. But the Lancers have struggled against top ranked teams with all six of their losses to teams ranked in the Register Top 10 poll. The key will be talented goalie Eric Sugrue who can get hot and carry the Lancers on his back.

In Division II, No. 3 seed and defending champion Cheshire and No. 1 Amity, who won the D-II title in 2008, are in different brackets and could be headed for a rematch in the championship game. Both teams will face off tonight in the SCC Division II tournament championship game at Bennett Rink in West Haven at 7 p.m.

Although the Spartans have arguably the best goalie in Division II this season with Alec Mansfield, both Amity and Cheshire are strong front to back and should roll through the tournament.

Watch for Cheshire freshman forward Owen Powers to provide some key goals or assists, a player who complements the Rams' balanced scoring attack and has emerged as a solid scorer and playmaker.

The team that could put a damper on the Spartans' and Rams' hopes for a title is No. 2 St. Joseph. The Cadets won the Division III title last season and have the talent and depth, led by forward Conor Crouse of West Haven, to beat even the top Division I teams. No one will be surprised to see the Cadets win the title, but St. Joseph would have to get by Cheshire in the quarterfinals and then potentially face Amity in the final.

No. 4 Suffield/Granby/Windsor Locks will be a tough out with its experience and talent. But the team to watch as a sleeper will be another SCC team - Lyman Hall. The Trojans are 0-4 combined against Amity and Cheshire this season. But the last two games with each team have been close 1-goal losses that could have gone either way thanks to Lyman Hall goalie R.J. Negri.

The Division III tournament looks wide open with only 10 teams qualifying for the post season (teams need a 40 percent regular-season record to qualify). Top seed Guilford of the SCC has talented forwards and defensemen, but it will likely be goalie Sean Finucane who will lead the Indians to the promised land of the championship game.

A hot goalie at this D-III level is usually the key to the title and Finucane can easily take on that role.

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