Blue Devils continue stellar start
WEST HAVEN — Last Saturday afternoon at the Edward L. Bennett Rink, the West Haven hockey team showed why this has all the makings of a special season. Playing well in all phases of the game, the Westies easily defeated a talented East Haven team, 4-0, to keep its record perfect at 6-0.
“I cannot remember (the last time West Haven started a season 6-0),” West Haven coach Joe Morrell said. “It’s been that long. You always hope to stay above .500 but we have been doing a lot of little things well.
“We have been playing great in all three phases. Our forechecking, neutral zone and defensive zone have been great. We are playing very well.”
As has been the case all year, the Westies had a balanced scoring attack. Four different players lit the lamp and 10 different players found their way into the scoring column.
West Haven, which led 1-0 on senior defenseman Max Brereton’s first-period goal, held a 36-14 shot advantage in the game. Brereton’s goal was set up when Tim Baylis took a sharp angle shot that went off East Haven goaltender Matt Mullally’s arm over to Brereton.
Brereton wasted no time finding the back of the net, giving West Haven a 1-0 lead with 7 minutes, 17 seconds to go in the opening period. Brereton’s goal was part of a 14-2 first-period shot barrage by the Westies.
“We have been disciplined,” Morrell said. “The kids are doing what they are asked. We are getting a lot of balance on offense. That is a big boost for us. There is not pressure on one line or one kid to score. Most of our goals have two assists.”
The West Haven defense was so good in the opening period both East Haven shots were in clear vision of junior goaltender J.P. Withington.
East Haven’s best chance went by the boards with 15 seconds to go in the period when Kevin Randall’s breakaway attempt was denied by Brereton.
“We are all playing together,” Brereton said. “J.P. has really helped. He is playing well. It is nice to be 6-0. It is a good thing. It gives us something else to play for every day, to stay undefeated.”
West Haven wasted no time taking a two-goal lead in the second period. After Lou Bisighini was stopped less than a minute in Baylis capitalized.
Baylis took a pass from John Ascenzia and beat Mullally for a 2-0 lead just 47 seconds into the period.
The Westie defense allowed only four shots in the second period, with Withington stopping Justin Vanderharten on an odd-angle shot 3 minutes in.
Withington’s toughest save came with 6:40 left in the period when he denied senior Lou Pane from the side of the net.
“This win is big,” Withington said after notching his first career shutout. “It (the shutout) means a lot. The defense has been playing really well and has cleared the puck right out.
“We are passing the puck well and working hard. We are playing as a team.”
West Haven had its share of scoring opportunities in the middle period.
Ryan Bruneau was stopped on a partial breakaway 4 minutes in before Bisighini gave West Haven a 3-0 lead with 8:31 to go in the period.
Positioned alone in front of the net, Bisighini took a pass from Ray Luedee from behind the net. Bisighini’s one-timer beat Mullally and took the remaining air out of the Yellowjackets.
“West Haven did a good job of bottling us up,” East Haven coach Lou Pane said. “They bottled us up all day long. I thought we had some shots in the second period, but the one opportunity we had, he (Withington) saved. They limited our shots. All the credit goes to them.”
East Haven (3-2) had its best opportunities in the third period but was denied three times by Withington in the first 4 minutes.
When Vin Berti scored off a backhand with 5:08 remaining in the game, the only question left was whether Withington would pick up his first career shutout.
Baylis and Berti led the Westies with a goal and an assist each. Ryan Hansen, Ascenzia, Bruneau, Luedee, Mike Troiano and Chuck Warner each had one assist.
Earlier in the week, West Haven traveled to Maine and dominated the two games it played. The Westies continued to pump the goals in the net, scoring eight times in each game.
Last season, the trip to Maine had a positive effect, leading the Westies to a postseason run. Hoping to do the same this year, West Haven opened with an 8-1 victory over South Portland, Maine.
“We did what we had to do up there,” Morrell said. “We put teams away early. Last year, we let teams hang around.”
Ten different players reached the scoring column and were led by Ascenzia’s three goals. Ascenzia’s line mates, Baylis (two assists) and Bruneau (one assist) also reached the scoring column.
Hansen added two goals and an assist, while Berti, Luedee and Troiano each added one goal apiece. Matt McCarthy, Bisighini and A.J. Esposito added an assist each.
Withington and Justin Shepard combined to make 12 saves in the win. West Haven held a 44-13 shot advantage.
Ascenzia gave West Haven a 2-0 first-period lead with a pair of goals, while Hansen and Berti increased the lead to four goals in the second period. Third-period goals by Ascenzia, Hansen, Luedee and Troiano had West Haven in front 8-0 before South Portland got on the board with a late goal.
In West Haven’s second and final contest up north, the Westies kept the offense coming, defeating York, Maine 8-3. Baylis led eight different players in the scoring column with three goals, including two in a five-goal second period.
Baylis, Luedee and Berti all scored in the first period, giving West Haven a 3-2 lead after 15 minutes of play. Bruneau also had a big night with two goals and two assists, Ascenzia added three assists and Luedee and Bisighini each added a goal and two assists.
West Haven held a 42-14 shot advantage. Withington made six saves, while Forrest Schell made five.