HOCKEY: West Haven holds on to beat East Haven

WEST HAVEN — West Haven hockey coach Joe Morrell told his team all week East Haven was a scrappy team that never gives up. If his players did not believe him, they got a first-hand look Saturday afternoon.

Trailing by three goals, East Haven rallied to within one before the Westies held on for a 4-3 victory at the Edward L. Bennett Rink. The battle of Top 10 teams saw West Haven improve to 6-1, while East Haven fell to 6-1-1.

“We came out strong and scored three goals right away,” Morrell said. “We knew East Haven was not going to give up. We told the kids all week they were not going to give up. We had some opportunities we did not capitalize on and they came back.”

Leading 3-2 after two periods of play, and having killed four penalties, West Haven was tested in the third period.

After East Haven could not cash in early in the period, West Haven took a 4-2 lead when Mike Troiano set up Austin Hansen who beat East Haven goaltender Zac Bouve with 2 minutes, 47 seconds gone by.

“I thought we tightened up defensively after the first period,” East Haven acting head coach Ben Fronte said. “We had some opportunities. If we were better in the offensive zone, this might have been a different game.”

West Haven goaltender Justin Shepard denied East Haven’s Stephen Marsico with a pad save with 9 minutes remaining then stopped him twice more within 1 minute. Bouve was just as good as he denied Troiano on a breakaway with 2:05 remaining.

The Yellowjackets made the game closer with 15 seconds remaining in the game. Rich Decarlo beat Shepard off an assist from Matt Longobardi but West Haven held on for the victory.

“It is good to be 6-1,” Morrell said. “We are in the tough part of our schedule and we have some battles coming up.”

The Westies applied the pressure from the start of the game and showed no signs of slowing down in the first period. After Adam Mink hit the post just 1 minute into the game, the Westies scored three times in a span of 5:49.

Kyle Leyerzapf picked up a loose puck and fired a wrist shot by Bouve 3:34 into the game. Just 2:45 later, the Westies had a 2-0 lead.

Leyerzapf sent a perfect pass to Mink at center ice. Mink raced in and had his initial shot stopped by Bouve before picking up the rebound for a 2-0 lead.

“This was a big game for us,” Leyerzapf said after scoring once and adding two assists. “We knew they wanted to come in here and take us out. We wanted to make a statement that we are for real.

“We want to get in (state tournament) as quick as possible and try and get a home game. We are shooting for eight, then get as many wins after that.”

After Shepard denied Longobardi’s shot and rebound, the Westies took a 3-0 lead. Just 19 seconds into a man advantage, Josh Robichaud’s shot from in close beat Bouve for a 3-0 advantage with 5:37 remaining in the opening period.

East Haven got closer with 3:46 left in the first period when Frank Latella’s point shot was deflected between the legs of Shepard by Marsico.

“I thought we played well with a man down,” Morrell said after his team killed four penalties in the game. “We did not give up any great opportunities.”

East Haven came out flying in the second period and applied most of the pressure early.

The Yellowjackets got closer when Decarlo took the initial shot then knocked in the rebound with 3 minutes remaining in the middle period.

Both teams had their chances in the second period. Troiano had a chance to increase the lead to three goals but his wrist shot hit off the glove of Bouve and sailed just wide 2:20 into the period.

Troiano’s best opportunity to increase the lead came with 5:25 remaining in the period. Hansen fed Troiano, who was all alone in front of a wide-open net, but the puck skipped over his stick.

East Haven had opportunities as well. Decarlo was stopped by Shepard’s pad save 7 minutes in, Tritian Goodwin was denied with a blocker save and Marsico hit the post with 6:05 to go.

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