Familiar formula leads to Westie victory over East Haven hockey

EAST HAVEN — The formula for the West Haven hockey team thus far has been get a couple in the net and let senior goaltender J.P. Withington do the rest.

Over the course of the first five games, that formula produced four wins and a tie.

Looking to pick up their fifth win, the Westies faced a scrappy East Haven team Thursday night at the DiLungo Rink in East Haven.

When East Haven’s Andrew Hamilton scored just 55 seconds into the game, it looked like the Westies were going to be in for a battle.

While the Yellowjackets pressured the Westies, it was all Withington after Hamilton’s goal with West Haven scoring the next four goals in a 4-1 victory.

Withington finished with 25 saves, including 11 in the final period.

“J.P. played really well again,” West Haven coach Joe Morrell said. “He is making the big saves when we need them. We are taking advantage of our opportunities and he is helping us.”

As Withington kept East Haven off the scoreboard after Hamilton’s early goal, a balanced scoring attack allowed West Haven, the No. 6 team in the New Haven Register Top 10 poll, to improve to 5-0-1.

Dave Landino and Adam Mink each had a goal and an assist, Mike Troiano added two assists and seven different players had points.

“It was a concern early as we were getting scoring from one line,” Morrell said. “We made some minor adjustments and we have gotten some guys going. That is big for us.”

East Haven (4-2) came out of the gates firing and the pressure paid off early.

After Hamilton’s laser from inside the blue line was stopped seconds into the contest, the senior scored just 55 seconds into the game after a Rich Decarlo rush set up the opening score.

The Westies responded just 45 seconds later with the biggest goal of the game. Off a three-on-one break, senior Jeff Norton beat East Haven goaltender Sam Gavigan to knot the game at 1.

Norton’s goal stopped any momentum East Haven was building and restored order for the Westies. Troiano and Landino assisted on the tying goal.

“It was a huge goal for us,” Morrell said. “Michael (Troiano) made a nice pass to him. He (Norton) has a couple of big goals for us. He stands in front of the net and goes hard.”

Withington was not beaten again. He made his best save of the period 3 minutes in when he denied Tom Brunski with a leg save.

Gavigan was equally impressive in the first period. He denied Mink’s quick shot with 3 minutes remaining to preserve the tie.

West Haven took control of the game in the second period, scoring twice in a span of 1:47. Troiano and Kyle Leyerzapf set up Mink who beat Gavigan 6:07 in.

The Westies then dealt the knockout blow when Landino scored a short-handed goal off an assist from Mink with 7:06 remaining in the middle period.

“I thought it was one of our better periods,” Morrell said of the second period. “Both goals were beautiful goals. We can be sloppy at times but then we can be pretty. Those were two beautiful goals.”

With a two-goal lead, West Haven was in a defensive mode in the third period.

It was the Yellowjackets, however, who controlled the play.

East Haven dominated the third period and Withington showed why he is among the best goaltenders in the state.

The Yellowjackets outshot the Westies 11-1 in the period but Withington was up to the challenge.

Withington denied Brunski’s blistering shot in close then denied Billy Coppola a short time later. Withington thwarted Josh Johnson 1:28 in with a glove save and stopped freshman Stephen Marsico in succession, including a glove save with 6 minutes remaining.

West Haven’s only shot of the final period produced a goal. Ryan Hansen took a pass from Jim Morrissey, got by the defense and beat Gavigan over-the-shoulder with 5:14 remaining after he committed early.

“We changed the forecheck a little bit,” Morrell said. “We just wanted to eat the clock up. We are thrilled where we are at. We have put ourselves in a good situation right now.”