Boys Hockey 2021-22: Five storylines to watch

Be normal! BE NORMAL!: Gone are 12-game limits, conference tournaments only, weird alignments. The CIAC tournament is back. Yes, there is still a pandemic ongoing. No, the state’s metrics aren’t necessarily trending the right way. But we’re starting a real season, and it feels a lot closer to December 2019 than we are to December 2020.

Road to the Where: On the other hand, the CIAC’s tournament packet has a bunch of “Site TBA”s for the semifinal and final. Yale’s Ingalls Rink is still operating under some enhanced COVID-19 protocols for Bulldogs games. We’ll see where the last two rounds land, but that may well not be where they’ve been since 1999.

Come In, Come Out: After a year out, the Shepaug co-op and the Eastern Connecticut Eagles return to CIAC play (and welcome back, gang). But Wilton sits out this time around, short in numbers but confident those will bounce back for 2022-23. Fairfield opted out of the Division I tournament to preserve its co-op of the town’s two public high schools, Warde and Ludlowe. Hall meanwhile had participation high enough to go off on its own; Southington now hosts a co-op of its own.

Holy war: Fairfield Prep is the preseason favorite, as it always seems to be. It has won 11 of 20 contested CIAC titles since 2000, including the past two, 2018 and 2019. Who’ll give the Jesuits a run? Could it be old buddies Notre Dame-West Haven? One of the FCIAC posse, four of whom will actually play Prep by Christmas?

Roll the dice: Getting input from state coaches as the preseason wound down, there didn’t seem to be clear favorites in Division II or Division III. North Haven, SCC/SWC D-II champs last season, have some key cogs back. Sheehan, three-time Division III conference champ before moving up to D-II last year, could be good. Some folks are high on the Farmington Valley Generals. A few sleepers could be driven by talented freshmen. Almost half of Division III came up as potential champs. The Newington co-op, E.O. Smith/Tolland and Brookfield/Bethel/Danbury, champions of their postseason tournaments in March, were among them.