HOCKEY: McNeil, Shea lead Amity past Milford

MILFORD — The Amity hockey team has made a habit of starting slowly. In four of the first five games, the Spartans have ended quickly.

Saturday at the Milford Ice Pavilion, Amity spotted Milford the first two goals before rallying to post a 4-3 victory. Behind two goals and an assist from Brett McNeil and three assists from Adam Shea, the Spartans improved to 4-1.

“We have been in a little rut in the first periods this year,” Amity coach Gary Lindgren said. “I have not been too happy the last few games. They scored a nice goal right away off the faceoff.

“We played tentative. We picked it up as we went on but I am disappointed we came out and played the way we did to start the game.”

Trailing 2-0, the Spartans used the power play to get going on offense. Shea found McNeil from behind the net and McNeil quickly beat Milford goaltender John DePalma with 8 minutes, 35 seconds left in second period to cut the deficit to 2-1.

The Spartans picked up the pressure and forced DePalma to make numerous saves to keep the Indians in front. DePalma denied John Crocker in front with 8 minutes left in the middle period, stopped Zach Schelnitz from the slot 1:30 later and stopped Shea from the side of the net with 3:57 remaining in the second period.

Amity finally got the equalizer with 40 seconds remaining in the period. On the power play, precise passes by Shea and McNeil found Eric Dykun, who beat DePalma to even the game at 2.

Just 23 seconds later, Amity took the lead for good. Keating Seymour quickly beat DePalma with 17 seconds left in the second period for a 3-2 Amity lead.

“We kept coming,” Lindgren said. “We played hard I thought against a very improved Milford team. Shea and McNeil had the nice give and go and Dykun on the power play. We started to believe more once we got going.”

Milford coach Sal Follo thought Amity’s two goals to end the middle period were keys to the game.

“We had that lull at the end of the second period and we coughed up two goals,” Follo said. “We did not capitalize on our opportunities and the penalties hurt us. I thought our performance was good. We stood with them.”

The Spartans wasted no time extending the lead in the third period. After Amity goaltender Nick Nuzzolo denied Milford’s Zach White, McNeil increased the lead.

Dykun’s point shot was denied by DePalma but the rebound came out front and McNeil beat DePalma for a 4-2 lead.

“We seem to always come out slow,” McNeil said. “We worked hard in the offseason and we kept playing the game hard and playing together. We did not have a lot of chances early but we took advantage of them when we did.”

White tried to get Milford (3-2) closer. The Milford junior was stopped from the side of the net by Nuzzolo with a glove save and was again stopped in front 40 seconds later.

White finally got Milford closer with 4:29 remaining in the game when he picked up a rebound in front and beat Nuzzolo. Will Vitelli assisted on the goal.

“That first line can skate with anyone,” Follo said of White, Vitelli and Robert Buskey. “I was pleased with the effort.”

With the Indians pressing, Nuzzolo was forced to come up big to preserve the lead for Amity.

Nuzzolo stopped White from in front with 1:26 remaining and denied Buskey from in front with a glove save off the faceoff.

Nuzzolo’s best save came with 30 seconds remaining in regulation. Buskey fed White with a perfect pass in front but Nuzzolo made the save.

Milford controlled play in the first period, holding a 17-5 shot advantage. The Indians needed only 19 seconds to take a 1-0 lead as Buskey’s shot was stopped by Nuzzolo but the rebound went to Vitelli who gave Milford a 1-0 lead.

Nuzzolo was big all day for Amity, stopping 39 shots. DePalma made 21 saves in the loss.