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Senior captain Rocco Plano and the East Haven co-op boys’ ice hockey team have spent the past few weeks in quarantine, but are planning on completing their season by competing in the SCC Tournament this week. (File photo by Kelley Fryer/The Courier | Buy This Photo)
Senior captain David Amatruda has had a great career playing the forward position and will be looking to score some goals for East Haven in the SCC Tournament. (File photo by Kelley Fryer/The Courier | Buy This Photo)
Head Coach Lou Pane appreciates how his seven seniors have guided the Yellowjackets through the twists and turns of the 2021 winter season. (File photo by Kelley Fryer/The Courier | Buy This Photo)
After playing just four games, the East Haven boys’ co-op hockey team recently found out that the remainder of its regular season has been canceled due to quarantine measures. However, even though the Yellowjackets have been on pause the past two weeks, Head Coach Lou Pane expects East Haven to get back on the ice when the Southern Connecticut Conference Division II Tournament begins on Thursday, March 18.
“We were disappointed, but we didn’t realize we would have another game left in the SCC Tournament,” Coach Pane said. “It will be an uphill battle as we won’t have a practice prior to playing. We feel fortunate that we still have a game left. If this happened a little later, we wouldn’t have been involved in the tournament.”
During their quarantine, the Easties have been taking part in virtual workouts in an effort to keep the team together. The co-op squad, which features athletes from East Haven, Old Saybrook, Old Lyme, East Hampton, Morgan, and Valley Regional, finished with a record of 0-4 for regular-season play. When the SCC Tournament begins, the slate will be wiped clean, and the Yellowjackets will have an opportunity to make a playoff run.
“Everybody starts a tournament with a 0-0 record. If you can get hot during the tournament, you can make a run and win it,” said Pane. “We’ll take one game at a time and hopefully get by the first one without a practice in. We’ll give it a whirl and do the best we can.”
Coach Pane said that the Easties’ captains have proved crucial with keeping everyone on the team unified during both the season and throughout the quarantine. While some are new to the team and others haven been staples in the program for years, Pane said that all seven seniors bring something positive to the squad both on and off the ice.
The seniors on the Yellowjackets’ co-op ice hockey team are captains Rocco Plano and David Amatruda of East Haven, captain Cory Benni from Old Saybrook, East Haven students Chad Feola and Brandon Smith, Old Saybrook student Cam Grillo, and Josh Penn from East Hampton.
Coach Pane called Plano the “mainstay” of East Haven’s defense over the past four seasons. Plano missed the Yellowjackets’ last two regular-season games due to an injury, and Pane said he’s excited to see the senior captain return for the SCC tourney. Pane gave Plano a ton of praise for his efforts on the defensive end of the ice during his career.
Amatruda, a forward, is also serving as a senior captain for the Easties. Amatruda has played for the team the past four years, and Coach Pane calls him a pure scorer who brings tremendous skills to the ice. Pane also commended Amatruda for his ability to lead the team by example.
Benni is playing forward while leading the team as a senior captain this season. Coach Pane said that Benni has always been a hard worker and a true sportsman, adding that he was a pleasure to have on the team.
Pane described Feola as a “pleasant surprise” at the forward position this winter. Feola started the year playing on the third line, but moved up to the first line by the end of the regular season. Pane credited the senior’s work ethic both this year and throughout his entire tenure with the team.
Smith is another athlete who has spent the past four years with the Easties. Coach Pane said that Smith is a team player who is always willing to do whatever it takes to help the Yellowjackets succeed. Pane added that Smith’s attitude and effort will be missed in the program.
Grillo, a defenseman, is in his first season with the team. While Grillo has only played four games, Pane said the senior quickly demonstrated that he was one of the best defensemen in the SCC this year. Pane expects Grillo to compete at the Division I level in college.
This season also marked Penn’s first year with the Yellowjackets. Penn has only played two games due to an injury, but Coach Pane said that he logged some impressive minutes when he returned. Pane is hoping that Penn will get a chance to continue displaying his skills in the SCC Tournament.
Although the season hasn’t gone quite as planned, East Haven will be looking to finish its campaign on a high note when the team competes in SCCs. Coach Pane wants to see his club play some solid hockey and send out the seniors on a positive note.
“This senior class has been through quite a bit. Last season, the year got cut a little bit short because of COVID. This year, we weren’t sure if we were going to have a season,” Pane said. “This senior class led through the adversity. I can’t say enough about them. They got a short season, but at least they got something. They were all good about it and feel fortunate. Hopefully, they make a little bit of a run in this tournament. That would be appropriate for these guys.”