Hockey: #2 Kimball Union Hosts #7 Loomis Chaffee

 The seventh seed Loomis Chaffee boys’ hockey team will make the long haul to New Hampshire to face second seed Kimball Union. Both teams have had an outstanding season: Loomis surprised everyone by making it into the Elite Eight and KUA clinched the second spot over competitive Exeter and Salisbury teams who placed three and four, respectively. 

The Pelicans and the Wildcats are two teams that contrast greatly. Anchored by All-star goalie Tim Birarelli ‘16, LC lacks a powerful offense, scoring an average 3.28 goals a game which pales in comparison to KUA’s massive 6.12 goals per game. Overall, the Wildcats more than double LC’s total goals scored (95) with an absolutely whopping 202. Loomis, unlike KUA, has a youth-filled roster that is often billed as the underdog.

In a testament to Loomis’ youth, eight out of ten of their top scorers are sophomores. The group of youngsters was propelled by Joey Cipollone ‘18, who led the Pelicans with 16 goals and 21 assists.

Not only does Loomis’s team have talent, but they seem to have the chemistry and cohesiveness to play and win as the lower ranked team. Earlier in the season Loomis tallied three goals in the third period to clinch a thrilling 3-2 victory over #4 Salisbury, the reigning champions for their defining win of the season. CcJz1mhW0AEKK_3

LC Head Coach JR Zavisza chimed in about his squad, saying, “This team has some sort of resiliency that … Loomis teams haven’t had in the past.” No doubt the Pelicans win against Salisbury is a shining example of the team’s bounce-back nature.

The Wildcats’ top five scorers showcase the team’s experience, as all five of them are seniors. Two of them, Ben Finkelstein and Patrick Shea, boast averages of two or more points per game. In fact, they both have more assists, 44 and 42 respectively, than Loomis’ Cipollone has points, 37. The Pelicans need to do more than just stop Finkelstein and Shea to win. KUA has eight other players who average one or more PPG. Only one of those players, Roope Hirvonen (17 G, 20 A), is a sophomore.

KUA’s scoring prowess can also be demonstrated by the fact that they’ve scored eight or more goals TWELVE times, Loomis has never even scored six goals, excluding their trip to Switzerland, and has only scored five goals twice.

With a team that boasts age, experience, and powerhouse offense, Tim Birarelli can expect that there will be a plethora of shots from the Wildcats in the upcoming game. If LC defenders like Brian Groom ‘17 and co-captain Andy Delalla ‘16 don’t step up then, Birarelli will have to play an extremely impressive game for the Pelicans to win. He’s been able to steal games for the Pelicans all season long though, posting an impressive .932 save percentage in starting all but three games this season. boys-hockey-celebrateslrg

Coach Zavisza isn’t too worried about the impending challenge, though, explaining, “I think that it doesn’t matter that we’re the underdog. I think we’re able to play well under pressure.” As the Pelicans have shown, that really is the case.

The fans at KUA Wednesday can expect a hard-fought game between two teams that have proven their worth again and again this season.

Whoever does come away with the win will play the winner of #3 Exeter versus #6 Milton.