The Edward L Bennett Rink in West Haven was supercharged with unbridled energy on Thursday, March 6 as four teams battled it out on the ice in the SCC Division II Semifinals for a shot at the Championship Game and Title on Saturday.
First up was #2 seed North Haven vs #3 Amity at 6 p.m. followed by #1 Branford vs #4 Cheshire at 8 p.m.
At 6 p.m. the Spartans and the Indians took the ice with all the passion and drive any coach would want to see in his team.
Even though Bennett Rink is Amity’s Home Ice, North Haven was the home team in this competition and the Amity Army – fiercely devoted student fans – had to make themselves comfortable on the unfamiliar opposite side of the rink.
In spite of non-stop back-and-forth possession of the puck, the game remained scoreless at the end of the first period.
In the second period Amity got on the board with senior Brett McNeil (8) making an unassisted goal at 4:11.
With a little less than 3 minutes left in the period, North Haven answered with Phillip Gauvin (20), assisted by Tyler Leudee (3) and Vin Fasulo (16) getting one by Amity goaltender Brian Mosher (30).
The third period was tense, with the score tied (1-1) until McNeil made his move at 12:15, assisted by John Uscilla (15), surprising the Indians goalie Andrew Graziano (30) and moving into the lead.
North Haven, desperate for the win, battled hard to even the score, Coach Thomas Roche pulled Graziano so he could have more men on the ice and with 22 seconds left in the game, McNeil, assisted by Adam Shea (5) made his third and final goal into the empty net, securing the Spartans a spot in the Championship match.
Interim Coach Michael Richetelli, who recently was named SCC Boys Hockey Coach of the Year, had this to say after Thursday’s win:
Amity went up against Branford in the first game of the season and won. Both teams were very different back then (several months ago. • Ryan Shea was coming back from an illness • It was Brian Mosher’s first game as a Varsity Goal tender.
The thing that made the difference at the semifinal game was the third line (Zachary DeCola, Freshman Jeremy Cable, and Liam Caracciol0) giving the top two lines the breather that they needed, working hard and understanding that role. They do a great job. The 30-40 seconds they give our guys (off the ice) gives them that much more energy, that’s why we were able to get back out there (to put on) with the pressure.
As far as McNeil’s Hat Trick, Richetelli said, “You want your best players to come up in the big games, and tonight that line came up big and he just happened to be on the final end of the goals. He did a great job.
This tournament (SCC) is a nice way to get you ready for the State Tournament. North Haven has a heck of a Hockey Team with Graziano, Fasulo, Bogart … they work hard. Graziano stood on his head during this game – he made some huge stops. it could have been a whole different ball game if he didn’t make those saves.
Of the Championship game. Branford and Cheshire had yet to play, but Richetelli said, if you’re gonna dance with the devil, you want to dance with the devil you know. We have respect for both teams. We’re strong in our conference and we feel good about that.
The SCC Division II title is on the line and today at 2 p.m. the Spartans will be back on its home ice.
Although Branford is the #1 seed, Believe In Your Spartans! They defeated Branford in the first game of the season at Bennett Rink and they are determined to win this title.