Norwalk/McMahon tops Milford in Division III hockey

NORWALK — Two short-handed goals went a long way for the Norwalk/McMahon hockey team on Monday night.

Norwalk/McMahon entered its Division III Tournament opener against Milford co-op without a victory in the postseason since the 2005-2006 season, but that changed in a big way at Sono Ice House Monday.

It paid to be short-handed for Norwalk/McMahon, which scored two goals while playing a man down, and skated to well-earned 2-1 win over Milford co-op in the opening round of the CIAC Division III Tournament.

Seeded seventh, Norwalk/McMahon advanced to Wednesday’s quarterfinal round. The victors received their long-awaited playoff victory courtesy of two goals from senior forward Jeb Boyrer.

Boyrer’s winning goal came with Milford on a 4-on-3 power play with 4:20 remaining in the third period.

“We came down the left side of the ice on a broken play, the puck went back up to the point, we took a shot that went wide and it hit off a skate and the puck fell to the right side of the goal line,” Boyrer said of the sequence. I saw the puck and was coming around the net and just poked it in.”

What followed was a feeling Boyrer will long remember from his short-handed goal.

“It was sweet, having our whole bench yelling and all our fans yelling and cheering,” Boyrer said.

Junior Finn Cullen was credited with the assist on the winning tally for Norwalk/McMahon, which had to withstand a furious final two minutes with Miford on a power-play.

Evan White, Rich Carino, Kyle Kosh and Luca Ubaldi each registered shots on goal in the final two minutes, but Norwalk/McMahon goalie Matt Vitucci stepped up with several key stops in the waning moments.

“That was a very long final minute of the game,” Vitucci said. “Our defensemen play great roles and they really were outstanding. It feels amazing to be moving on to the next round.”

Vitucci made 21 saves, while Derek Ouellette made 30 saves for Milford co-op.

“Our team has had some down years, but this was a big step for our program,” Milford coach Ken Mitchell said. “We qualified for SCCs, as well, which was a good accomplishment for us. We have a lot of players that will return next year and we are also bringing back a lot of hockey IQ.”

Skating on a line with Finn Cullen and Keegan Cullen, Boyrer scored the game’s first goal with 10:06 remaining in the first period. He intercepted a pass at the blue line, took it to his forehand and went top shelf with a snap shot, making it 1-0. The goal came with Milford on a power-play.

“The opportunities came for us tonight when we were short-handed, I guess,” Boyrer said. “That’s when we got the the looks.”

Milford co-op tied the score at 1-1 on freshman Connor Chirico’s short-handed tally with 8:08 to go in the first period. he knocked in a rebound off a shot from the point by Ubaldi.

“It was a great game,” Norwalk/McMahon coach Scott Raymond said. “The kids were aware that the team had not won a playoff game since the 2005 season and they’re very excited. They stepped up when it mattered in a tight game.”