The Staples/Weston/Shelton co-op hockey team will be returning to Yale University’s Ingalls Rink for the first time in five years to play in the Division III semifinals on Tuesday.
The No. 3 seed Wreckers earned their way with a hard-fought, 5-3 victory over a determined sixth-seeded Lyman Hall/Haddam-Killingworth/Coginchaug team on Thursday night at West Haven’s Bennett Rink.
Five different players scored for the Wreckers (14-8-0) in the win which puts them in the semis against No. 2 Woodstock Academy (19-3-0), a 6-1 winner over Housatonic/Northwest Regional in its quarterfinal game.
SWS took 64 shots in the Trojans end in the win, putting 45 of them on goal. Losing goalie Zach O’Toole was outstanding in net where he made 44 saves, thwarting the Wreckers time and time again.
Down 2-1 after one period, SWS battled back and got second-period goals from Jesse Greenspun (2:01) and James Beirne (5:03) to take a 3-2 lead into the final period. When R.J. Gupta beat O’Toole from a shot in the slot at 4:36, the Wreckers increased their lead to 4-2.
But the Trojans, who got earlier goals from Scott Bradley and Josh Martinez, got a big score from an unassisted goal by Hunter Boileau at 6:54 which narrowed the Wreckers’ margin to one, at 4-3.
The Trojans (12-6-3) pulled O’Toole with just under a minute remaining, but Sam New picked up a loose puck near center ice, skated to his right and over the blue-line before firing a shot into the open net.
“They’re a very good team,” said SWS coach Todd Sherrin. “We threw three lines along with extra forwards and five defensemen at them and they battled right to the end. We really didn’t take care of some good opportunities in the first period where the slot seemed open for us throughout the period.
“I told my guys after that that the percentages and the probability were likely to be in our favor if we kept working and kept putting pucks on net.”
SWS defeated Woodstock Academy, 6-5, in overtime last year.
“Near the start of the season some people thought that we were the best team in Division III,” Sherrin said. “I wasn’t going to say anything then, and I didn’t. Through hard work and effort we’re now going to Yale and, yes, we’ve earned it.”
The Trojans put 23 shots on Wreckers’ goalie Zack Bloom who made 20 saves.