East Haven Co-op Hockey Squad Off to Scorching Start
Senior captain Michael Robert and the East Haven co-op boys’ ice hockey squad are sporting a record of 5-0 on the year after recently earning road victories over Milford and Glastonbury. (File photo by Kelley Fryer/The Courier)
Junior Dylan Ingram is one of two Valley Regional students competing for the East Haven boys’ ice hockey team, which has a record of 5-0 thus far this season. (File photo by Kelley Fryer/The Courier)
As the East Haven co-op boys ice hockey team took the ice this season, Lou Pane entered his 35th year as the Yellowjackets' head coach. East Haven is off to scorching start at 5-0 with Coach Pane picking up his 450th career victory in the process.
The Yellowjackets are a co-op program that features athletes from East Haven, East Hampton, Morgan, Old Lyme, and Valley Regional high schools. After starting the seasons with wins over Cheshire, Staples, and Woodstock Academy, Coach Pane's squad earned a pair of road victories last week, defeating Milford 9-1 and Glastonbury 5-3.
"It was great to be back on the ice this season, especially after last year, where we only played five games. To have the opportunity and look forward to a full season with a state championship is a blessing," Coach Pane said. "It makes you believe that society will overcome this pandemic at some point. It gives us the opportunity to be hopeful and grateful."
Coach Pane earned career win No. 450 when East Haven claimed a 9-2 road win against Staples on Dec. 18. When he was a senior captain at Quinnipiac, Pane was just one of five players from East Haven who had gone on to play in college. He wanted to coach at East Haven and help more players get to the next level. In Pane's tenure, 75 players from the Yellowjackets have gone on to play in college with another 50 moving on to the Juniors level.
Pane has been lacing up his skates in some shape or form for the past 52 years. After he obtained his 450th win, Pane felt grateful to be among the legends of Connecticut high school hockey and thankful to all the players that he's coached.
"I've been very fortunate in the last 35 years to have teams that are willing to work harder than I worked. I'm grateful that my players helped me get to 450," said Pane. "To be able to be recognized with legends in Connecticut hockey, at times, I can't even fathom it. I'm humbled for where I am. I still have fire in my belly, and that's what keeps me going."
After earning a 3-2 home win against Woodstock Academy on Dec. 20, the Yellowjackets were forced off the ice due to quarantine until this past week. East Haven returned to action by claiming a 9-1 win versus Milford at the Milford Ice Pavilion on Jan. 6.
East Haven freshman Gennaro Pompano had three goals and two assists in the victory. Old Lyme sophomore Griffin McGlinchy also recorded a hat trick, and senior captain Parker Sprankle of Old Lyme had a goal with an assist. East Haven senior captain Michael Robert and East Haven sophomore Josh Salvati both scored a goal.
East Haven junior Alan Schroeter dished out two assists, while East Hampton senior Josh Berg, East Haven sophomore John D'Albero, Old Lyme freshman Christopher Anderson, and East Haven freshman William Demetriades contributed one assist apiece. East Haven senior Ryan Sheldon made 17 saves in net for the Yellowjackets, who outshot Milford 49-18.
"Milford beat us last year. That didn't sit well with us," Pane said. "Those first and second periods, I thought we were a little rusty. We got into a groove in the third period and scored six goals. We ran away with the game. We really needed to get our legs going, and it took a couple periods to do that."
East Haven went on to notch a 5-3 victory over Glastonbury at Trinity College on Jan. 8. The Yellowjackets jumped out to a 2-0 lead on goals from Pompano and Schroeter. East Hampton junior Nicholas Ruggiero added a goal in the second period as East Haven took a 3-1 lead into the third. Glastonbury battled back, but the Yellowjackets got a goal from D'Albero before Pompano scored on an empty net to secure the 5-3 win. East Haven junior Jon-Paul Garea served as the Yellowjackets' goalie in a game that was played with no fans in the stands.
"Glastonbury gave us all we could handle. We were up early 3-0. We let them come back 3-2. We went up 4-2, they came back 4-3. But eventually Pompano scored an empty-net goal with less than a minute to go," said Pane. "It was a different scenario. It brought us back to last year with no spectators. It was good that we got through that successfully."
East Haven has only had its full roster intact for one game thus far, but Coach Pane said that this year's team has strong chemistry and that multiple players are stepping up to fill any voids. Pane has been especially impressed with the Yellowjackets' offensive output as the team had scored 35 goals through five games. Pane said that the high-octane offense is giving the Easties some wiggle room, but that he expects the defense to follow suit as the year moves on.
"We do a lot of little things well. But when we get going offensively, we have a knack for scoring. We've been averaging a lot of goals. In five games, we have scored 35 goals. It's a real high number," Pane said. "It really gives you a little bit of room for error defensively. We're trying to tighten up defense every day. Our defense continually works hard. We are getting better there."
On offense, East Haven often alternates its top two lines depending on the matchup. One line features Pompano, McGlinchy, and East Haven sophomore Michael Savo. Coach Pane said that Pompano, who already has two hat tricks, is a natural talent and one of the best players in the state as a freshman. He added that all three players mesh well together and complement each other's skills on the ice.
The other top line features Sprankle, who has six goals and eight assists, along with Schroeter and Ruggiero. Just like with the other line, Pane said that all three athletes play well together and always give East Haven a chance to score.
With numerous players in quarantine, senior Berg has been asked to step up on the offensive side of the ice. Coach Pane said that Berg is always willing to do what the team needs and does a phenomenal job of picking his teammates. Pane added that East Haven junior Joseph Vocatura, who typically plays on the third line, has been working hard and appears ready to take a step up.
Defensively, the Yellowjackets are led by senior captain Robert, who is joined by Morgan junior Tyler Weinzimmer on the top pairing. Pane said that both players set the tone for the team's defense.
The Yellowjackets' defensive corps also features East Hampton junior Matt Penn, Valley Regional junior Dylan Ingram, East Haven sophomore Robert Testa, and East Haven freshman Cam LaCroix.
Ingram and sophomore William Fleischer are the two Valley Regional students on this year's squad. Coach Pane said that Ingram not only brings size to the team, but also provides a calming presence in the locker room.
"Dylan Ingram is a big kid. He's a good defenseman. He works hard. When he is on the ice, he gives us an entirely different presence. He's big, he's strong, he takes bodies in the corners," said Pane. "He brings the edge in practices and in the locker room. He is always there for a quick joke and make guys smile. His personality alone has meant the world to us. He's a tremendous guy to have on the ice and in the locker room."
This year, the Yellowjackets' three senior captains are East Haven's Ethan Roach, a goalie, along with Robert and Sprankle. Coach Pane said that all three players have put in the work to earn the captain's role and are showing the underclassmen what it takes to succeed.
"They lead by example. They work hard and show the way," Pane said. "When you give over 100 percent of yourself, other players recognize that and follow that lead. Those qualities led them to be captains."
With five wins already, the East Haven co-op needs just three more victories to qualify for states this year. Coach Pane is hoping that the Yellowjackets can stay healthy and continue to improve as they aim to make some noise in the postseason.
"I'd love to see us accomplish a league championship. I'd love to see us possibly go really deep in the State Tournament and maybe even win it. But everything has to fall in place," said Pane. "You have to stay injury free, you have to have a full team. We're going to continue to work hard and take one game at a time. We're going to savor each win we have and, hopefully, we can reach a couple of our goals. Sitting at 5-0 is a good spot to be."
The East Haven co-op boys' ice hockey roster team's roster features senior captains Ethan Roach (East Haven), Michael Robert (East Haven), and Parker Sprankle (Old Lyme); fellow seniors Josh Berg (East Hampton) and Ryan Sheldon (East Haven); juniors Alan Schroeter (East Haven), Nicholas Ruggiero (East Hampton), Tyler Weinzimmer (Morgan), Giuseppe Monaco (East Haven), Joseph Vocatura (East Haven), Matt Penn (East Hampton), Jon-Paul Garea (East Haven), Evan Giovanelli (East Hampton), and Dylan Ingram (Valley Regional); sophomores Robert Testa (East Haven), Michael Savo (East Haven), William Fleischer (Valley Regional), Josh Salvati (East Haven), Griffin McGlinchey (Old Lyme), John D'Albero (East Haven), and Dominic Perillo (East Haven); as well as freshmen Christopher Anderson (Old Lyme), Ben Frazier (Old Lyme), Dilan Robert (East Haven), Cameron LaCroix (East Haven), Gennaro Pompano (East Haven), and William Demetriades (East Haven).