Milford hockey falls to Norwich Free Academy in opener

MILFORD >> Playing in his first varsity game for Norwich Free Academy, sophomore Max Tapia was looking to make an impact. Tapia more than did his share.

Scoring twice and adding an assist, Tapia led his team to a 6-1 victory over the Milford Indians in the season opener for both teams Monday evening at the Milford Ice Pavilion.

“We played well as a team today,” Tapia said. “The whole team played great. It is nice to start the season off with a win.”

The Redhawks were stellar in all phases of the game, killing off six Milford power play opportunities and scoring twice on a pair of their own power play chances. Andrew Bannon added a goal and two assists in the win, while Matthew Fabianski finished with a goal and an assist.

“I thought we were decent all the way around,” Redhawks coach Jim Motyka said. “I was pleased overall with what we did out there today.”

For the Indians it was not the start they were looking for. The Indians had scoring chances, but either shot wide or were denied by Redhawks goaltender Ben Amor.

“We did not play that bad,” Milford coach Sal Follo said. “Their goalie (Amor) just played an absolutely fabulous game. That was the difference. He came up with some big saves.”

With a three-goal lead to start the third period, the Redhawks put the game away when they finished killing off the better part of a major penalty assessed at the end of the second.

Tapia delivered the crushing blow to the Indians, scoring seconds after the Redhawks killed off the penalty. Bannon added an insurance tally with 5:16 remaining.

“We were very undisciplined today,” Motyka said of his team having to kill six penalties. “We can’t do that all the time. It will come back and bite you. We took way too many penalties.”

The Redhawks controlled play in the second period on the ice and on the scoreboard, scoring three times to take a 4-1 lead.

Trailing by a goal to start the middle period, Milford evened the game just two minutes in when Jake Burwell sent Andrew Gobany in on a breakaway. Gobany deked to his right and beat Amor to even the game at one.

“We had our opportunities today,” Follo said. “We either shot high and wide, or their goalie made a big save.”

The Redhawks then scored three consecutive times to close the period. Just 1:48 after Gobany’s goal, Brayden LoVetere picked up a loose puck, circled behind the net, and wrapped a shot around Milford goaltender Luke Alfano.

Just 4:27 later, the Redhawks had a two-goal advantage as Bryan Guetens wristed a shot from the slot, which trickled between the arm and chest of Alfano and into the goal for a 3-1 lead. Guetens’ goal was the first of two power play goals by the Redhawks in the stanza.

The second came when a pass in front by Bannon, went off the skate of teammate Fabianski in front to Tapia, who had an open net to shoot into with 2:46 remaining in the period fo a 4-1 lead.

“We just did things we work on in practice,” Tapia said. “We were able to see what was around us and made the plays. It is a good start for us.”

The Indians had a two-man advantage for a full two minutes to end the period, but could not convert. The two-man advantage also consisted of a five-minute major penalty on the Redhawks which was successfully killed off.

“We had that power play and did not capitalize,” Follo said. “I think we needed to slow it down a bit. We will work on that.”

Despite having its share of opportunities in the first period, Milford trailed 1-0 thanks in part to a perfectly set up play by the Redhawks.

Tapia and Bannon started the play and from behind the net, Bannon sent a perfect pass in front to Fabianski who quickly beat Alfano to the top right corner with 9:43 left in the opening period for a 1-0 advantage.

The Redhawks held an 8-7 shot advantage in the peiod, but it was the Indians who had the better of the scoring opportunities.

Burwell was denied from the left wing 3:20 in, Gobany went coast to coast with 8:18 remaining but his shot sailed wide, before again missing high and wide from in close 2:28 later.

Milford’s best scoring chances in the period came in the final five minutes as Ryan Fortier was denied by Amor, who then followed with a nice pad save on the rebound by Santi Palacio. Fortier then hit the crrossbar from the slot with 58 seconds left in the opening period.

Alfano also came up big in the period, stopping Guetens twice, the first on a breakaway 2:20 into the contest, and the second from in front 2:10 later.

Amor finished with 25 saves in the win, while Alfano made 20 saves for Milford.