Updated boys hockey: Branford High defeats Milford Co-op

If there's one part of the game which first-year Milford-Co-op hockey coach Kevin Mitchell has in his favor this year, it's an abundance of goalies. He has four to choice from every night that the Indians take the ice.

And, by the looks of things so far this season, Mitchell might need every one of them.

Sophomore Derek Ouellette got his second consecutive start on Saturday afternoon, as the Indians took on Branford in a Southern Connecticut Conference game at the Milford Ice Pavilion. Ouellette finished with 36 saves in a 5-0 win by the Hornets, who will no doubt be in the hunt in the Division II standings.

Seniors Luke Alfano and Jason Turner, along with junior A.J. Bolduc, are all in the mix.

This year, Milford Co-op is playing down one level, from Division II to Division III. So far, the Indians have played a pair of D-II teams (a 7-1 loss to Amity Regional) and two D-IIIs. Both were also losses; 7-4 to Newtown, and 4-1 to Hand of Madison, another squad which dropped down for this season.

Versus Branford, the Indians' inability to effectively clear the puck out of their end, led to a decrease in offensive chances. This was evidenced by their final shot production (20 total shots in the Branford end, with 13 of them being on goal).

"Derek had a good game, another good game (he had 40 saves against Hand)," Mitchell said. "We didn't do him any favors. We hung him out to dry a little bit."

Branford, however, was only able to take a 1-0 lead over the first 15 minutes. The Hornets scored just 4:28 in, taking advantage of a miscue by Milford's defense.

Zach Jones picked up an errant pass just outside the Indians' blue-line and quickly fed a pass to Billy Lindner who, in turn got the puck to Rob Lionetti who slide the puck under Ouellette's pad for a 1-0 lead.

For the rest of the period, Branford tied, in vain, to beat the sophomore; each time, they were turned back.

"I really didn't think I played a good game today," Ouellette said. "I did give up five goals. I always try to stay in front of the puck. I'm not afraid of stopping it and making sure I have control of it.”

Ouellette’s ability to stop shots and not give up any rebounds limited Branford from getting too many, in-close attempts.

The Hornets followed it up with a pair of second-period scores, one coming on a power-play (with Blake Kustra scoring) and another after a defensive lapse when Lionetti got his second of the game on a blistering shot from just above the left-side face-off circle. The shot beat Ouellette to the far-side over his left shoulder.

The Hornets put the game out of reach in the third period with two more goals, with scores by Kustra (his second of the game) and Spencer Engstrom. Branford finished with 74 shots in Milford's end.

"We broke down and gave them too many odd-man rushes," Mitchell said. "You can't do that against Branford. They buried several of those shots on our net.

"Our guys understand what's wrong. Our down-low defense has got to get better. This is a smart group of kids and they like to compete. I can see that. We really need to go back to the basics. Nothing fancy. We need to grind it out."