NORTHFORD – John Delucia’s eyes opened almost as wide as the opening in the net.
After not getting many good shots off during the game, the Guilford junior captain put the pucks into the net with 3:15 remaining to put Guilford ahead and the Indians defeated Branford, 4-2, Friday afternoon in a Southern Connecticut Conference Division II game at the Northford Ice Pavilion.
With the game deadlocked at 2-2 and seemingly headed towards overtime, things changed as the Indians put a lot of pressure on Branford goalie Jared Yakimoff, trying to take the lead for the first time. After a couple rebounds, the puck ended up on Delucia’s stick a foot away from the open net. Yakimoff couldn’t get over to that side quick enough and Delucia had an easy goal.
“There were a lot of shots and a scramble in front,” Delucia said. “It kind of fell on my stick.”
The goal climaxed a big comeback for Guilford (6-1). The Indians trailed for 33 of the 45 minutes in the game.
Branford pulled Yakimoff with 1:12 left in the game and put a ton of pressure on Yanbul with several attempts to tie the game. But Guilford put the game away when Ring scored an open net goal with 6.5 seconds remaining to close out the scoring.
“It’s a big win since it’s a league game,” Guilford coach Ralph Russo said. “We were tired after a long trip to Canterbury Wednesday, but the kids had their legs in the third period.”
It didn’t take long for Branford to get on the scoreboard in the opening period. A pass from Blake Kustra from just inside his own blue line went over the head of a pair of Guilford defenders and right to Spencer Engstrom, who skated down the right side all alone. When he got to the right circle, he blasted a shot past Guilford goalie Mete Yanbul into the lower left side of the net just 2:13 into the contest.
After an up and down next 11 minutes, Branford took advantage of a slashing penalty on Guilford’s Tom Cattaneo to score again. On a scramble in front of the net, Jack Manware poked the puck past Yanbul to make it 2-0 with just 1:07 remaining in the opening period.
“I thought we had a few good chances to score, but it didn’t go our way,” Russo said. “You’re looking up at two goals, but we had to be aggressive. It’s a credit to our guys that they hung with it.”
Guilford climbed back into the game in the second period by increasing the pressure on Yakimoff. Finally, the Indians converted when Joe Neleber misdirected a shot by Cattaneo and it scooted past Yamikoff into the net with 8:17 to play in the period.
Cattaneo tied things up when blasted a shot past Yakimoff from the right circle just 4:24 into the third period.
“It’s tough to give up a two-goal lead, but they’re good, fast and move the puck well,” Branford coach Jim DiNapoli.
Guilford outshot Branford, 23-18. Yanbul had 16 saves and Yakimoff stopped 19 shots.
“We would have liked a better outcome,” DiNapoli said. “Give credit to Guilford. They kept working and so did we. We just ended up on the wrong side.”
GUILFORD 4, BRANFORD 2
(at Northford Ice Pavilion)
Guilford 0 1 3 – 4
Branford 2 0 0 – 2
B – Spencer Engstrom (Blake Kustra) 2:13; B – Jack Manware (Engstrom) 13:53.
G – Joe Neleber (Tom Cattaneo) 6:43.
G – Cattaneo (Jack Ring) 4:24; G – John Delucia (Jack Dacey, Ring) 11:45; G—Ring 14:54.
Shots: Guilford 23; Branford 18.
Saves: G – Mete Yanbul 16; B – Jared Yakimoff 19.
Records: Guilford 6-1; Branford 4-1-1.