Ice hockey: Milford chasing playoff berth
Putting three good periods of hockey together has been a monumental task for the Milford co-op boys hockey team during the 2016-17 season. Youth and a partial lack of experience have been the highest ranking factors against accomplishing that goal.
Head coach Sal Follo has seen times when his team has stood up to the task and battled hard. Last Thursday night's game against New Fairfield/Immaculate was a very good case in point. The Indians jumped out to a 2-0 first-period lead before giving up five unanswered goals in a 5-2 loss at the Milford Ice Pavilion.
"We fought hard tonight," Follo said. "For a team which came into this game with a 2-14 record, we played hard. It was no-nonsense out there. Our guys stuck to the game plan right from the start. We jumped on them. We moved well to the puck and our guys who didn't have the puck at the time, moved well."
Good pursuit to the puck led to Milford's first goal by freshman Santi Palacio at 4:11.
Positioned right out in front of NFI goalie Chris Kennedy, Palacio received a pass from Ryan Fortier, who had dug the puck off the boards, and flipped it home. Andrew Gobany also picked up an assist on the score.
Milford continued to keep the pressure on.
Gobany's 12th goal of the season off a backhander at 9:32 put the Indians up by a pair of scores. Fortier earned the assist.
Freshman goalie A.J. Bolduc made eight of his total 25 saves in the opening 12 minutes, as the Indians were priming themselves for a potential upset over NFI, a team which came into the game with an 11-2-2 record.
"It's never good spotting a team two goals," said Larry Vieira, whose coaching career has taken him from Branford to Darien and now on to NFI. Over 34 years of coaching has netted Vieira more than 400 wins. "What you're doing is giving another team a sense that they could be looking at a victory. I think it took us a little time to get going tonight.”
Once the Mustangs were able to shake off all feelings of tiredness, they began to roll. NFI got a trio of second-period goals, one from Sam Mitchell and two from Jamieson Brown. NFI's defense limited the Indians to only two shots, both of them turned aside by Kennedy (17 saves).
Still very much in the game down 3-2, Milford gave up what turned out to be a crucial goal at the 2:01 mark of the third when Mitchell got his second of the game.
"I may not be happy, but I'm not displeased at all with our effort," Follo said. "We stood back a little too much in the second period and look what happened. But we did have our chances in the third. A couple of missed opportunities. That's what it came down to."
Kennedy made 10 saves in the third period for the Mustangs while his team upped its lead.
"Our goal is to make the state tournament," Follo said. "We haven't given up hope yet. We have four games left and we'll need to be much more consistent in order to have a chance to win. The way it looks, five wins, if we can get them, would put us in."
The Indians improved to 3-14 on Saturday with a 5-3 win over the Eastern Connecticut Eagles.
In that game, Ryan Fortier and Jimmy Cronin had two goals apiece while Gobany scored and added three assists. Luke Alfano made 14 saves in goal.
The Indians will close out their regular season on Saturday at home (Milford Ice Pavilion) with Guilford at 1 p.m on Senior Night.