The West Haven Squirt A travel hockey team concluded the 2017-18 season by competing in the Connecticut 10U Squirt Tier 3 state championships last weekend at the Danbury Ice Arena. The Blue Devils were the No. 9 seed in the 12-team tournament and went 0-2-1 in round-robin play.
West Haven finished its successful season with a 32-16-4 overall record. Highlights from the campaign include a 17-game winning streak, winning the 2017 Steel City (PA) Columbus Day Shootout championship, earning the No. 1 seed and advancing to the semifinals of the 2018 Ocean State (RI) Classic, sweeping Hamden in the “Winter Classic” home and away, and defeating Ridgefield at the Barclays Center (NY), the home ice of the New York Islanders.
The Westies opened play in the Tier 3 state championship tournament on Friday night facing the top seed, Avon A. Avon had defeated the Blue Devils three times during the season, including 5-2 and 7-1 wins in the last two weeks. Avon jumped on the scoreboard early by scoring just nine seconds into the game. The Westies did not flinch though and worked to tie the score at 1-1 with 2:54 left in the period. Thomas Porto’s initial shot was saved but Zach Goetze pounced on the rebound and backhanded the puck in the net.
Jacob Silva was brilliant in net during the second period as he turned away 14 shots and kept it knotted at 1-1. The score remained tied until West Haven went on a power play with two minutes left in the game, setting up a wild finish. Despite the man advantage, it was Avon who capitalized with a short-handed goal with 1:52 remaining.
West Haven continued to apply pressure and, just as the penalty expired, Dylan Bosworth’s shot from the right point deflected up and over the goalie to even it again at 2-2. Thirty seconds later, Porto cashed in another rebound, with Ethan Kelly and Goetze assisting, and the Westies went up 3-2. But Avon tallied with 10.5 seconds remaining in the game and each team earned a point in the standings. Silva finished with a total of 33 saves.
With a short turnaround, the Westies faced fifth-seeded ECHO A early Saturday morning. The Blue Devils opened the scoring in the first period when Goetze picked the pocket of a defenseman and fed Brady Price in front. Price roofed the puck for a 1-0 lead 4:53 into the game.
The Blue Devils extended the lead to 2-0 about five minutes later. Matthew Kelly slid the puck ahead to Goetze who raced in and backhanded it toward the net. Porto calmly collected the puck and cooly deposited it in the back of the cage with 2:38 remaining in the first.
ECHO scored a power play goal 3:33 into the second period and then tied the game at 2-2 with 1:32 left in the second. In the final minute, Goetze fired a shot from distance that the goalie could not handle and Porto flew in to tap home the loose puck and give the Westies a 3-2 lead going into the third period.
Goetze was just wide, Sean Studley just missed a one-timer from Ethan Kelly, and Porto rang one off the post as the Westies tried to add to the lead in the third. ECHO tied the game and took the lead with a pair of goals in the final three minutes, and then added an empty netter in the final seconds, for the hard-fought, 5-3 decision. Silva was again outstanding in net for West Haven and kept the team in the game with 29 saves.
Later on Saturday, the Westies faced the Wonderland Wizards A team in a must-win game to advance to the cross-overs. The Wizards blanked the Westies, 7-0, just a few weeks earlier. Undaunted, the Blue Devils showed their character by playing spirited hockey at both ends of the rink. Silva was strong again and made several spectacular saves throughout the game.
Despite being down, 2-0, midway through the second period and having lost Bosworth to an injury, the Westies would not give in. On a power play, Goetze found Porto in the left circle and Porto went five-hole to cut the Wizards’ lead to 2-1. The Wizards scored twice more, and had a 4-1 lead in the third period, but again the Westies refused to quit. Studley won a battle for the puck along the boards and sent it ahead to Ethan Kelly. Kelly deked through two defenders and fired home a wrist shot to cut the lead to 4-2. The Wizards eventually scored the final goal and ended the Westies’ season with a 5-2 result. Silva finished the game with 36 saves.
The West Haven Peewee A travel hockey team concluded its season in the Tier 3 state tournament at the Wonderland of Ice in Bridgeport this past weekend. The Westies were 0-1-2 in the tournament and missed the quarterfinals by one point.
West Haven opened the tournament with a 2-2 tie against the fourth-seeded Norwalk Roughriders. West Haven took a 1-0 lead when Mickey Dowd scored on a breakaway with 5:12 left in the opening period, but Norwalk scored twice in one minute to take a 2- 1 lead with 3:15 left in the opening period.
Despite solid play by both teams, the score remained that way until the closing seconds. Nolan Cole picked up a loose puck off the boards, broke in and scored with 5.9 seconds remaining in regulation to even the game at two.
The Westies returned to action Friday evening in Bridgeport and played fifth-seeded Wallingford. After a scoreless first period in which goaltender Brendan Smith was outstanding with several big saves, Wallingford took a 1-0 lead with a power play goal 3:18 into the second.
West Haven evened the game with 4:05 left in the middle period when Colin Deane chipped the puck ahead to Nolan Cole. Cole streaked down the right side and fed a perfect pass across the crease which Michael Madera directed in for the equalizer.
West Haven had some golden opportunities in the final 15 minutes, but could not capitalize.
Needing a win on Saturday to advance to the quarterfinals, West Haven fell to Ridgefield AA. Madera scored the lone West Haven goal when he knocked in a rebound of a Deane short in the third period.