HOCKEY: Hamden shows its might against Amity

WEST HAVEN — Two days after originally scheduled to play, the Hamden hockey team reminded everyone it again is a team to be reckoned with in the state.

Led by Connor Walsh, who scored twice and added an assist, and the goaltending of Andy Varga with 18 saves, the Green Dragons defeated Amity 7-2 at the Edward L. Bennett Rink Friday afternoon.

“They scored on their first shot of the game after we had the first seven shots,” Hamden coach Bill Verneris said after his team improved to 2-0. “The kids settled down and played hard.

“Andy (Varga) settled down after they scored the first goal. It was a dogfight until we got some breathing room in the third period.”

Hamden controlled play in the first period, then used a solid defense to thwart the Spartans.

Amity (1-1) learned a valuable lesson regarding giving up goals very early or very late in periods, allowing Hamden to score twice late in a period and another early.

“Those goals hurt,” Amity coach Gary Lindgren said. “It changes the complexion of the game. We had some miscues and they capitalized.”

Walsh scored twice in the first period and added an assist in the second period. It was Walsh’s goal with 1 minute, 9 seconds remaining in the opening period that turned the tide of the game, giving Hamden a 2-1 lead.

Hamden held a 13-4 shot advantage and a 2-1 lead after one period of play. The Green Dragoons started quickly, saw Amity take a short-lived lead, then ended the period the way they started.

After Tyler Carangelo was denied 40 seconds into the game by Amity goaltender Nick Nuzzolo and Tim Lee was stopped on a breakaway with Zhang Liu in pursuit 2 minutes later, the Green Dragons fell behind.

Amity’s Joe Bianchi found himself alone in front of Varga and ripped a shot under the crossbar, giving Amity a 1-0 lead 5:04 into the contest. The Spartans’ first shot of the game and goal saw an assist going to Eric Dykun.

“I thought Joey Bianchi played well,” Lindgren said. “He had a nice game. He made some nice plays and had a nice goal.”

Hamden quickly responded as Walsh scored the first of his two first period goals. After Lee’s rebound attempt was denied in front by Nuzzolo, Walsh picked up a rebound and beat Nuzzolo to even the game at 1 with 6:48 to go in the first period.

Walsh gave his team a 2-1 lead with a crushing goal with 1:09 remaining in the opening period.

With traffic in front of the net and players coming from behind the goal, Walsh slid the puck through the crease, narrowly beating Nuzzolo for a one-goal lead heading into the first intermission. Sean Casbarro and Jeremy Germain assisted on the goal.

“Connor is a grinding forward,” Verneris said. “He gives you everything he has. He brings a physical presence to the team. He played a good game.”

After scoring with 69 seconds remaining in the opening period, the Green Dragons put another dagger into the Spartans less than a minute into the second period.

Germain slid a perfect pass across the crease where Brandon Dadio tapped a shot past Nuzzolo for a 3-1 Hamden lead just 26 seconds into the middle period.

Amity picked up its play in the middle period and had plenty of quality scoring chances. Varga was up to the challenge.

Varga denied John Crocker, who was poking at a rebound in front with 6:32 remaining in the period, then stopped Alex Viera from the point on an Amity power play with 3:18 remaining.

“I thought we played well in the second period,” Lindgren said. “I thought we started skating and had some opportunities.”

The Spartans finally cracked Varga again with 2:21 remaining in the middle period with a power-play goal. Dane Simone sent a pass to the point where Joe DeGoursey’s shot got through a screen and beat Varga to cut the deficit to 3-2.

Looking like they would go to the third period down one goal, the Spartans had a defensive breakdown.

Walsh found Lee found in open space and Lee broke in alone on Nuzzolo, deked and beat him between the legs with 13 seconds to go in the middle period to restore the two-goal lead.

“We get the power play goal from Joe DeGoursey and thought we were going into the third period down a goal,” Lindgren said. “That’s a backbreaking goal. We had a miscue with our defense and we didn’t pick up the wide wing. He was off to the races. That one hurt us.”

Carangelo scored a power-play goal in the third period and Bill Reilly followed with another goal 24 seconds later for a 6-2 lead with 5:51 remaining in the game.

Germain finished with three assists for the Green Dragons, while Lee and Carangelo each had a goal and an assist.