Milford co-op’s 11th-seeded boys hockey team fell behind 3-1 in the first period and drew within 5-4 in the final minute of the third before falling by that margin to second-seeded Amity of Woodbridge in the Division II state semifinals played at Ingalls Rink in New Haven on Monday.
“I thought the first period really did us in,” Milford coach Sal Follo after his team completed its season with a 13-9-1 record. “The guys never gave up…We kept going at them and going at them…No one thought Milford would be anything at all…There had to be a winner and there had to be a loser.”
Zach White scored two goals and Ben Lavallee and Andrew Gobany had one goal each.
Amity (16-7) will play 13th-seeded Daniel Hand of Madison, which defeated top-seeded East Catholic, for the state title.
The Spartans took a 1-0 lead after a takeaway led to an Adam Shea goal only 47 seconds into the game between teams that met in January, with Amity winning 5-4.
“We wanted the first good hit, the first good shot and the first goal,” Amity interim coach Mike Richetelli said. “They (Milford) are here for a reason, and anyone who didn’t think so didn’t know Milford.”
The Indians, with Dan Cyr and Jonathan DePascale starting on defense in front of senior goalie John DePalma, looked to answer, but Amity keeper Brian Mosher made a tough save on Lavallee at 11:30.
Brady Dennigan and Gobany were rewarded from some tough forechecking when Amity’s Ryan Hauser was called for holding at 9:39.
Milford couldn’t get a shot on goal during the two-minute stretch, and Shea scored at 9:16 to stake the Spartans to a 2-0 lead.
White gave the large contingent of Milford fans something to cheer about when the senior center took a pass from Tommy Sampson and showed off his skills with a double move to beat Mosher at the 10:08 mark. Cyr also had an assist.
Follo said, “Words can’t describe what he (White) has done for this program. He put on a heckuva show here tonight.”
Follo used three lines, mixing and matching at times, with Vitelli and Lavallee with White, followed by Sampson, Brandon Argyros and Jacob Comeau, and then Dylan Hallett, Gobany and Dennigan.
David McLenithan and Jarrod Butts teamed up on defense.
Amity regained a two-goal advantage after Gobany went off for a hooking penalty.
DePalma, who finished with 28 saves, stopped Graham Hughes and Lavallee had a sliding block on another attempt, before Brett McNeil put one inside the far post from an almost impossible angle at 12:51.
Amity had a 3-1 lead and a 14-9 edge in shots after one period.
“They’re kids,” Follo said. “We had some breakdowns that hurt us. Good teams capitalize on mistakes and Amity is a very good team.”
The Spartans came out flying in the second period, with DePalma making three saves in one sequence, and then stopped McNeil from right in front.
Vitelli and Lavallee led some hard hitting for Milford along the boards, but Amity extended its lead to 4-1 when Kevin Ryan scored 3:51 into the frame.
Milford fought back, and White kept in a clearing attempt and put a shot into a scrum in front of the net.
Lavallee kept hacking and scored while being knocked to the ice at the five-minute mark. Vitelli and McLenithan had the assists.
McLenithan’s great pass found White, whose backhanded try went just wide midway through the period.
Follo questioned a non-call when Lavallee was knocked down to the right of Mosher, and on the next shift White was called for boarding at mid ice.
DePalma made one save, and then White broke free to score shorthanded, but a whistle to start the exchange saw McLenithan sent to the box for charging at 10:56.
Milford fought off the two-man disadvantage, and White scored short-handed at 11:39 to make it 4-3 with Cyr and Lavallee earning assists.
The Indians had two chances to tie the game.
Gobany and Dennigan broke out on a two-on-one, but Mosher, who had 20 saves, stick checked the puck wide.
White later came free in front, but his shot went wide left.
Amity led 4-3 after two, with a 27-15 advantage in shots
“In the second period we beat then two to one,” Follo said. “We had two out of three good periods. I’m proud of our team, I really am.”
Milford controlled the first three minutes of the third period, helped by a two-minute hooking penalty on the Spartans’ Dalton Luciani.
Mosher stopped a Lavallee shot to open the period, and on the Indians’ power play had three saves, including one from DePascale from the right point.
Amity made use of its power play chance at 4:16 following a high-sticking call on Vitelli.
McLenithan and DePascale did well in the early part of the power play, and Lavallee had a short-handed shot, but Amity’s Zach Sheinitz put one in through a pile up in front that left DePalma helpless.
Amity led 5-3 at 5:28 of the final period.
DePalma had two fine stops to keep it a two-goal deficit, and Mosher made a dazzling save on White off a pass from Lavallee at 8:04.
Milford came back again, with Gobany taking a centering pass from White and scoring with 59.3 seconds remaining in regulation. Nash Ericson also had an assist.
An empty net try by Amity clanged off the post at 14:30 and Milford tried but couldn’t get another shot on goal.
“At times we hit the post and were wide a couple times,” Follo said. “It was a great accomplishment what this team, what these seniors did. We did well, we just fell short. It’s tough. It’s tough.”