defeated St. Augustine Prep (Richland, N.J.), 3-0 this past weekend. For the No. 2 team in the state writers poll, playing out-of-state opponents is something that is pretty common and built into the schedule each season, more than any other school in the state.
This season, Prep (9-2, 2-1 SCC Division I) plays six out-of-state teams, against which the Jesuits are currently 3-1, with Seton Hall Prep (West Orange, N.J.) and Catholic Memorial (West Roxbury, Mass.) yet to come.
There are a number of reasons why Matt Sather, who is in his 13th season as head coach, does it, part for team development and part simply for the challenge and experience.
"We're always looking to play challenging competition wherever we can get it," said Sather, who has won six Division I state titles in his tenure. "Certainly in Connecticut you can do that, but you see the same teams over and over again, it gets a little stale. The No. 1 thing is to be a little different, keep the season fresh, see different faces and go to different rinks and things like that. That creates a lot of excitement for the kids. And also when you're not playing your division rivals game after game, it makes those division games a lot more exciting.
"If you pick the right teams, you get a really good level of hockey. You actually take a lot of the emotional rivalry out of the games, so you get cleaner games. Kids don't know each other, there's no grudges. You get good up-and-down skating games."
It also gives his players exposure they wouldn't receive playing only in-state.
"We do it to get our kids closer to where the college coaches are who want to see them play," Sather said. "We go to Boston in the preseason for our scrimmages instead of a local jamboree. We go for two straight weekends. It's a great time for our juniors and seniors who are looking to play in college. It's a great time to be seen. And most of the colleges our kids are applying to are Northeast schools."
The Jesuits have outscored opponents 53-15 this season, but a lot of their success starts in goal with senior John Galiani
(1.15 goals-against average, five shutouts).
"Galliani in net has certainly been our rock," Sather said. "We only have five seniors on this team. You're talking about a lot of new faces but also a lot of kids who are being asked to take on a larger role than in the past. When you have a goaltender who can make up for some mistakes it's really helpful and now that he's had a chance to be the No. 1 guy he's running with it."
The Jesuits are getting balanced scoring, having five players with five or more goals. Junior AJ Unker
has a team-high nine goals. Sather sights senior captains Bryan Puffer
(seven goals, seven assists) and Donald Carnicky
(5-5) as being key players in point production.
"The steadiest guys are our two forward captains," Sather said. "Then we have some guys who have some pretty good skill sets who are chipping in. A.J. Unker, he's just a born goal-scorer. David Griffin
(4-5) is finding the net consistently. David White
(5-8) has made a huge jump from last year when he was a fourth-line freshman to being a key offensive player. It's not always easy for a sophomore to do that."
Prep's only in-state loss was to Hamden, 3-2, a game that counted toward the SCC Division I league standings. The Jesuits will play Hamden once more in the regular season in a nonleague game on Wednesday. They also play a second game with Notre Dame (West Haven) that will count. Prep defeated ND 3-2 in a nonleague contest earlier in the season.
At one time, the CIAC did not count out-of-state games toward qualifying for the state tournament, but since that has changed it brings with it another challenge.
"Back in the day, we'd play six out-of-state games, get blown out in all six before we were more competitive and deeper, but it didn't matter," said Sather, who played at Prep, graduating in 1993, and played in college at Amherst. "Now it counts, so if you're looking at your team thinking 'I'm going to be on the bubble making the state tournament,' it's real hard to schedule a bunch of out-of-state games and you don't know whether you're going to get the New York Rangers or you're going to get a pee wee team. It's a big risk for some schools."STORYLINES
* Career Magnet (New Haven)
, No. 3 in the state writers boys basketball poll, rallied from 13 down in the second half to avoid an upset by Lyman Hall (Wallingford) 57-55 in an SCC interdivision game.
* Bacon Academy (Colchester)
girls basketball held off No. 9 Windham 64-60 after leading by as many as 18 in a key ECC matchup.TOP PERFORMERSBoys basketball* Antonio Lucky, Hamden:
Scored 26 points in a 72-61 SCC Quinnipiac victory over Notre Dame-West Haven.* Treyvon Moore, Career (New Haven):
Scored 17 points and had 12 rebounds in a 68-46 SCC Oronoque victory over North Haven.* Chrisian Collette, Sheehan (Wallingford):
Scored 26 points in a 57-48 SCC Housatonic victory over Amity (Woodbridge).* Tafari Whittingham, Stratford:
Had 19 points, 13 rebounds and three blocks in a 62-47 SWC victory over Bunnell (Stratford).* Kris Dunn, New London:
Scored 29 points to reach 1,000 in his career in an 87-46 ECC Medium Division victory over Killingly.Girls basketball* Alexis Iannone, Sacred Heart (Hamden):
Scored 24 points in a 66-62 SCC Quinnipiac victory over Hamden.* Aaliyah Robinson, Wilbur Cross (New Haven):
Scored 24 points and made four steals and three assists in a 58-39 SCC Oronoque victory over East Haven.* Cherelle Moore, Kolbe Cathedral (Bridgeport):
Scored 15 points, including the 1,000th of her career, in a 66-49 SWC victory over Norwalk.Girls hockey* Ashley Alemida and Jordan D'aurio, Notre Dame (Fairfield):
Almeida scored twice and D'Aurio made 21 saves in a 5-0 victory over West Haven.* Jordan Rocco, North Haven/Amity (Woodbridge):
Scored a hat trick in a 6-1 victory over Branford.* Olivia Hompe, New Canaan:
Scored four goals and had two assists in a 6-1 victory over Guilford.Paul Rosano, the former assistant sports editor of The Hartford Courant and sports editor of The New Haven Register, covers Connecticut for MaxPreps.com. He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.