WEST HAVEN – After seeing its four-game winning streak snapped with a loss to East Haven, the North Branford hockey team was looking to get on a roll once again. It may have taken two periods, but senior Nico Giatrelis and his teammates may be on the right track once again.
Behind four goals and an assist from Giatrelis, a save on a penalty shot by goaltender John Lovelace, and four third period goals, North Branford rallied to defeat Amity 6-3 in a Division II contest at the Edward L. Bennett Rink in West Haven Wednesday evening.
“This was big for us to score four goals in the third period,” Giatrelis said. “It definitely gives us a lot of confidence. I think we were able to lift each other up in the last period.”
The game was marked as the second annual Amity Hockey Coaches vs. Cancer benefit game, being played in honor of Justin DaSilva, and organized by Amity coach Gary Lindgren. Both teams met DaSilva at the entrance to the ice area prior to the game.
DaSilva is a 15-year-old boy who has Ewing’s Sarcoma, which is a very rare and aggressive bone cancer. First diagnosed in October 2009, DaSilva went through several rounds of chemotherapy and radiation. He responded well and was in remission until January 2012 when the cancer returned in the same area.
“This is certainly worthwhile and meaningful,” Lindgren, who won a battle with cancer in 2014, said in an earlier statement to the Register. “After everything that I went through, I’ve become more understanding and compassionate to others with cancer and also the loved ones affected.”
With the game even at two to start the third period, Amity took a 3-2 lead when junior Jordan Conn stuffed in a shot just 1 minute, 6 seconds into the period.
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The lead lasted for the Spartans until the Thunderbirds scored four times in the final 8:45. Prior to the equalizer, Lovelace came up with a big save, denying Jason Csejka on a penalty shot with 12:07 to go for one of his 37 saves on the night.
“I thought that was a big save at that point in the game,” North Branford coach Ralph Shaw said. “If they pop in that penalty shot, it may be a different story. That sparked us and got us excited again. We were then able to take care of business.”
Sophomore Sean McKee evened the contest at three when he poked a shot past Amity goaltender Tyler Johnston off an assist from Giatrelis.
Giatrelis then gave North Branford the lead for good. With North Branford on the power play, Giatrelis poked in a loose puck for a 4-3 lead with 4:26 to go. Just 1:30 later, Giatrelis scored again for a 5-3 lead, before senior Scott Clinton added an insurance goal 38 seconds later.
“That has been the theme all year,” Lindgren said. “We go deep in games and are tied with five minutes to go and we make a bad defensive play or can’t clear the puck. We just self-implode out there. It is unfortunate. We work hard out there and get good looks and opportunities, but can’t put it in the net. We have struggled to score all year.”
Amity (4-11) put on the pressure in the second period, holding a 13-7 shot advantage, and getting the equalizer with 6:57 to go in the middle period. Off the faceoff, Nick DeGennaro was denied by Lovelace, then waited for the rebound and beat a sprawled Lovelace to even the game at two.
Both goalies came up big in the final four minutes of the period, with Lovelace denying DeGennaro in front with a sharp glove save, and Johnston turning aside a point blank shot by Brian McKee with a fantastic glove save with 26.2 seconds to go in the period.
North Branford (9-8) took a 2-1 lead after one period of play on a pair of goals by Giatrelis. Giatrelis opened the scoring early in the period and closed the scoring with less than a minute to go in the opening period.
Just 3:03 into the game, Giatrelis picked up a rebound of a point shot by Brendan Dupuis and beat Johnston for a 1-0 lead. The Spartans responded quickly, needing only 38 seconds to get the equalizer as Colin Hughes set up Zach White and White’s shot from the hash marks beat Lovelace to even the contest.
Both teams had ample opportunities to grab the go-ahead goal in the opening period, but neither could capitalize. North Branford’s Christian DeFrancesco was denied twice by Johnston, once with a pad save in front, and the second with a glove save off a breakaway with 1:03 to go in the period.
Giatrelis finally put the Thunderbirds on top with 46.7 seconds to go in the period as he took a perfect back-handed flip pass from Brian McKee and beat Johnston for a 2-1 North Branford advantage.
Brian McKee finished with three assists and Marc Daddio added two assists in the win for North Branford. White had a goal and an assist for Amity, while Hughes finished with a pair of assists.