HOCKEY: White helps lead Milford past Branford
NORTHFORD — With the holiday break over, it was back to business for the Milford and Branford hockey teams Wednesday afternoon. For Milford’s Zach White, Will Vitelli and Ben Lavallee, it was like they never left.
Combining for 13 points, the trio helped lead Milford to a 6-5 victory over the Hornets at the Northford Ice Pavilion. White scored twice and added four assists, Lavallee scored once and added three assists and Vitelli added two goals and an assist.
“This win is good for the guys,” Milford coach Sal Follo said. “I was pleased with the effort. They pretty much dominated us in the third period but we were able to come away with the win.”
The Indians (3-1) led 6-2 before Branford scored three times in a span of 2 minutes, 42 seconds in the final 5:14 of the game. Tony Pascale scored with 2:32 remaining to cut the deficit to one but Milford’s John DePalma saved the game when he denied Robert Klouda with less than 2 minutes remaining.
“I thought John DePalma played really well,” Follo said. “He made some big saves.”
Branford (2-3) controlled play to start the contest and put the early pressure on DePalma. The Hornets were denied by DePalma on early shots by Klouda and Robert Denhardt, but DePalma was finally beaten with 3:23 gone by in the game when Cooper Bunton fed Tyler Hacket in front and Hacket beat DePalma for a 1-0 lead.
“I thought we carried the play early,” Branford coach Adolph Brink said. “But, we have to find a way to put the puck in the net. They were better on both ends of the ice.”
After DePalma denied Robert Petrillo from the point, the rebound by Pascale, and a shot from in front from Hacket, Milford woke up. The Indians started to get their opportunities and finally cashed in on the power play.
Branford goaltender A.J. Brink denied Vitelli and the rebound by Robert Buskey before the Indians evened the game. Set up on the side of the net, Lavallee stuffed a shot past Brink with 4:49 left in the opening period for Milford’s first of three power-play goals in the game.
“We scored three times on the power play,” Follo said. “That was big for us. We take great pride in that.”
The Indians took the lead 2:16 later. White skated in on Brink, deked the defense and sent a perfect pass to Larry Shea who easily beat Brink to an open net for a 2-1 Milford advantage.
“We had our opportunities to score,” White said. “We were able to score. We try to go out there and put out a good effort all the time. This win was very big for us. This was a big game for us. Last year, they did the same thing and rallied late. We were able to get the win.”
Branford controlled the first 5 minutes of the second period and evened the game at 2 just 5:12 in. Bunton’s initial shot was stopped by DePalma but Hacket was there for the rebound.
The Indians scored the next four goals, including two in the second period. White put Milford ahead for good when he ripped a shot under the crossbar from the top of the right faceoff circle with 6:17 left in the middle period.
White continued his stellar day in the final seconds of the period. His assist helped set up Vitelli who wristed a rocket past Brink to the top corner from the slot with 21 seconds remaining in the period for a 4-2 lead.
Milford wasted no time delivering the knockout punch just 54 seconds into the third period. On a breakaway, White beat Brink from the right wing for a 5-2 lead.
Along with Lavallee, White then picked up an assist on Vitelli’s second goal when he set up Vitelli from behind the net for Milford’s third power-play goal 2:42 into the final period for a 6-2 lead.
Branford made things interesting when Jack Murray scored with 5:14 left. Tyler Criscuolo added a power-play goal 1:25 later and Pascale added the third straight goal for Branford with 2:32 remaining.
“We can’t play five minutes and expect to win the game especially in our league,” Adolph Brink said. “We can’t take penalties and give up power-play goals.”