West Haven hockey survives scare from Hand
WEST HAVEN — Throughout the course of a season, there are games you dominate and games you feel fortunate to win. The latter fits the West Haven hockey team after Wednesday night’s performance against Hand-Madison.
Looking lethargic throughout the vacation-week game, the Westies used a late power-play goal in the third period to avoid a potential crushing loss in a 2-1 victory over the Division II Tigers at the Edward L. Bennett Rink.
“I feel this is two games in a row now we have been outplayed,” West Haven coach Joe Morrell said. “We have been fortunate enough to win. We were lazy to the puck. Everyone was looking for other players to do the job.”
After scoring the equalizer early in the second period, the Westies needed a power-play goal with 5 minutes, 51 seconds remaining in the third period to improve to 3-0-1.
The goal with 3 seconds left in the man-advantage was a result of perfect passing.
Defenseman Kyle Leyerzapf painted a perfect pass on the stick of Dave Landino in front. Landino’s pass across the crease found Ryan Hansen staring at a wide-open net and Hansen easily beat Hand goaltender Dan Tagliarini for the eventual winner.
“The power-play goal at the end was huge,” Morrell said. “That is exactly the way we practice it. We needed that goal.”
All that was left for West Haven to tack on the victory was to kill off the final 5 minutes.
The Westie defense did its part and senior goaltender J.P. Withington again came up big.
Withington saved the day with a diving save across the crease to deny Nick Kruczek with 21 seconds left in the game.
Withington had come up big earlier in the period with the game even at 1. He denied Kruczek with a diving save then stopped Mike Deane from the point with a pad save 27 seconds later.
“J.P. is J.P.,” Morrell said. “I have said that all year. He is going to keep us in a lot of games. He certainly did that the last two games.”
West Haven looked sluggish from the start and trailed 1-0 after one period.
Hand (2-2) controlled play early and finally solved Withington when Tyler Bauer took a pass from Deane out of the corner and beat Withington between the legs with 8:28 to go in the opening period.
Tagliarini came up with some big saves late in the first period for the Tigers. His best sequence came with 5:36 to go in the opening period when he stopped Landino’s slap shot then a rebound by Landino with two chest saves.
When Jeff Norton picked up the second rebound, Tagliarini made a pad save to keep the Tigers in front.
Hand had an early opportunity to increase the lead in the second period but Mitch Brown’s shot rang off the post just 2:10 into the middle period.
That missed opportunity hurt the Tigers 2 minutes later.
Brandon Cangiano’s shot from the slot went over Tagliarini’s glove off the crossbar. The puck bounced out to Landino, who beat Tagliarini with 10:50 to go in the second period to even the game at 1.
“I am not very happy,” Morrell said. “We got outplayed again. We are not going to keep stealing games every game. We were outplayed in two straight games and only gave up one goal.”
Withington made 23 saves in the win. Tagliarini finished with 13 saves.