Defense spurs West Haven past Notre Dame-Fairfield in Christmas tournament
WEST HAVEN — With four returning defensemen — Alex Scranton, Joe Ayala, Donny Froehlich and Devin Hines — and returning goalie Mike Savino, West Haven hockey coach Joe Morrell believed the strength of his team entering the 2013-14 season was its defense.
The Blue Devils showcased that defense against fifth-ranked Notre Dame-Fairfield, shutting out the Lancers over the final two periods of the consolation game of the West Haven Christmas tournament at Bennett Rink on Saturday.
Savino finished with 34 saves and the Westies scored four unanswered goals in the third period — led by a goal and an assist by Jeremy Borelli — in a 4-2 SCC-SWC Hockey League win.
“In that first period we just stood around on defense, and you can’t do that against a top-10 team,” Morrell said. “I yelled at them during the break after the first period, and in the second period we starting moving our feet. The defense stepped up, and we got some momentum. We’re a team that needs momentum in order to win.
“Our four defensemen and Mike Savino were key for us, especially when it came to shutting them down in that second period.”
A.J. Lucatino and Dan Walsh gave the Lancers a 2-0 lead in the first period. In the second period, Savino made 11 saves to keep the score at 2-0 and several players, including Scranton, Ayala and forward Jaeson Puleo, used their bodies to deflect shots in front of Savino.
“This game wasn’t just a defensive effort from the defensemen, it was a team effort by everyone from Savino to the forwards,” Scranton said. “We work hard in the offseason on our team defense, it paid off today and we got a great effort against a very good team.
“We could sense our defensive pressure was affecting them by the end of the second period, and by the third period we had the momentum.”
The momentum changed quickly in the third period.
Puleo scored 24 seconds in to cut the Notre Dame lead to 2-1. West Haven’s Kevin Coyle tied the game at 2 at 1:29, and Jeremy Borelli gave the Westies (3-1) their first lead at 3-2 with an unassisted goal at 4:25. Wyatt Condon added an insurance goal at 6:52.
The Lancers (2-2) pulled goalie Justin Krochko with about 2 minutes remaining, and the pressure was relentless in front of Savino. But he made three quality saves to preserve the two-goal lead and several times Westies’ bodies dove in front of the goal to deflect shots.
“Their goalie and defense played well, but the key for us is we took too many penalties and playing short-handed took us out of our rhythm,” Notre Dame-Fairfield coach Steve Hetherman said. “We went from playing as a team to playing as individuals.”