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02/13/2023 03:04 PM

East Haven Co-op Skates Into 36th Consecutive States Appearance

Junior John D’Albero has been a fiery force on the ice for the offense of the Yellowjackets’ boys’ ice hockey co-op team, which has now reached the state tournament for the 36th consecutive campaign. Photo by Wesley Bunnell/The Courier
Senior goaltender Jon-Paul Garea has been rock solid between the pipes for the East Haven boys’ ice hockey co-op squad, which qualified for state tournament play for the 36th year in a row this season. Photo by Wesley Bunnell/The Courier

Throughout the course of its season, the East Haven boys’ ice hockey co-op team has created a culture of competitiveness both on the rink as a group and within the ranks of its roster, which has hatched yet another trip to the postseason for the 36th consecutive winter.

The Yellowjackets’ squad, which features athletes who attend East Hampton, Morgan, Old Lyme, Old Saybrook, and Valley Regional high schools, had stood at an even record of 4-4 through its first eight games of the campaign after a 4-2 loss to Westhill-Stamford on Jan. 18. That loss proved to be a turning point for Head Coach Lou Pane’s club–as they completed a 5-1-1 stretch and cemented a 36th-straight state tournament berth with a 2-1 road triumph over Lyman Hall on Feb. 4. This was followed by East Haven shutting out Hand 3-0 at home on Feb. 6.

“Getting to states is always one of our main goals each season,” said Pane. “We are fortunate to now hold this record of making states for 36 straight years. I am also fortunate to have a bunch of kids each year that have the desire to win. The accomplishment can be difficult at times, so it is very rewarding, and I give the guys a lot of credit. I am excited about where we are as a team.”

The postseason-producing victory against the Trojans also showed the essence of the squad’s success for the 2022-’23 run, in that different faces emerged as key stars in the decision that have worked hard since the first day of practice to earn starting slots.

“Our success has come from hard work and getting better every day, from the beginning of the year until now,” Coach Pane said. “There has also been competitiveness between the players to win starting jobs. We have guys who have been elevated to the second line that did not even dress at the start of the year. About 99 percent of our goals this year have come from our first line, but against Lyman Hall, they did not score, and we were able to win. Our defense has also stepped up, and we have had good goaltending.”

Within those victories, East Haven posted several signature wins. They included skating past Sheehan, and one of the state’s leading scorers, before blowing past Branford, who has also become one of the hotter teams in the SCC/SWC after falling to the Yellowjackets.

“One of our bigger wins was against Sheehan [3-1 on Feb. 1],” Pane said. “We were unable to handle them the past few years, but we shut down one of the better players in the state in Max Festa by shadowing him. The kids realized that when you work hard and have a game plan, you can overachieve. Branford is a big rival, and so it was a big 6-2 win before they went on a roll and beat North Haven. They keep seeing the picture that if they work hard, they can go far.”

Pane went on to note that the Yellowjackets have, at times, split up their top-scoring line of junior John D’Albero, Griffin McGlinchey, and junior Michael Savo to increase point production. He added that the defense has also added clutch goals and assists, along with sound stoppage of the puck between the pipes with senior Jon-Paul Garea.

“John and Mike have had the majority of our scoring, along with Griffin,” said Pane. “We split them up across different lines. Our third line has been strong, too, with Nicholas Ruggiero, Evan Giovanelli, and Joshua Salvati. Tyler Weinzimmer has been fabulous for us, with seven goals and seven assists. Sal Plano has been a pleasant surprise as a stay-at-home defenseman. Our goals against has been low, which is a credit to Jon-Paul; he has stolen a few games for us.”

Against Hand, D’Albero had two goals, plus Allan Schroeter added an empty-net tally. Garea stopped all 26 shots he faced in the shutout bid.

Down the home stretch of the regular season as East Haven prepares for the Division II State Tournament, the Yellowjackets will be well-tested come postseason time via facing some more formidable foes. Yet as long as each athlete keeps progressing, the rest will take care of itself.

“There is not much rest for us; we hope to keep winning and keep progressing,” said Pane. “We take it all one game at a time. We have to continue to get better in order to make a run. It will come with hard work, and hopefully, we are successful. What is important is how we progress as a team from Point B to C since we are a little beyond the midpoint of the year. We have to get better as a team and as individuals.”

The roster for the Yellowjackets’ 2022-2023 squad is comprised of seniors Jon-Paul Garea (of East Haven), Evan Giovanelli (East Hampton), Aidan Grillo (Old Saybrook), Dylan Ingram (Valley Regional), Giuseppe Monaco (East Haven), Matthew Penn (East Hampton), Nicholas Ruggiero (East Hampton), Allan Schroeter (East Haven), Joseph Vocatura (East Haven), Tyler Weinzimmer (Morgan); juniors of John D’Albero (East Haven), William Fleischer (Valley Regional), Cameron Green (East Haven), Griffin McGlinchey (Old Lyme), Dominic Perillo (East Haven), Joshua Salvati (East Haven), Michael Savo (East Haven), Robert Testa (East Haven); sophomores with Christopher Anderson (Old Lyme), William Demetriades (East Haven), Benedict Frazier (Old Lyme), Cameron LaCroix (East Haven), Salvatore Plano (East Haven), Dilan Robert (East Haven), Quinn Sprankle (Old Lyme), Tanner Walsh (East Haven); and finally freshmen Shane Ruggiero (East Hampton), and Nicholas Perillo (East Haven).