NEW HAVEN >> The 13th-seeded Hand boys hockey team has emerged as the Cinderella of the CIAC Division II tournament thanks to a combination of speedy forwards and a solid goalie.
After falling behind by a goal in the first period, that combination couldn’t have worked any better for Hand in the Division II semifinals at Yale’s Ingalls Rink on Monday. Dan Braumann had two goals and three assists, Ben Solin had two goals and an assist and Chase Briggs made 27 saves to lead Hand to a 5-1 upset victory over No. 1 East Catholic.
Hand will face No. 2 Amity in the championship game on Friday at Ingalls Rink at 7:30 p.m. Amity defeated Milford 5-4 in the other semifinal. This will be Hand’s first appearance since 2006, when it defeated New Canaan to win its only Division II state title.
“We just love playing from behind,” Hand coach Ken Mitchell said. “I keep saying don’t do it, and East Catholic came out and took that 1-0 lead. But we had good second and third periods, and that third goal in the second period was big and took the wind out of their sails.
“Right now we’re peaking at the right time. We’re dialed in and the players are playing our system. Our first line is big for us, but our second line has really been developing too. It also helps to have a goalie like Chase Briggs who made three or four big saves in the third period.”
The Eagles actually dominated the first period and outshot the Tigers 9-5. The Eagles ended up with the first goal when Alex Manner sent a slap shot from inside the left circle. The low riser went inside the right post for the 1-0 lead 44 seconds into the first period.
“We weren’t really concerned after that first period,” Briggs said. “We knew we’d come out stronger in the second period. We’re used to these slow starts. Dan’s second goal in the second period was big, but the third goal late in the second period really took the life out of East Catholic.”
The Tigers (13-10) would own the second period, and three unanswered goals would ultimately give them the momentum to move on to the final.
Solin tied the game with a power-play goal at 1 at 2:22 of the second period. Braumann gave the Tigers their first lead of the game off a wild play at 10:21 of the second period. As he took his shot from the right circle, Eagles goalie Tom Usseglio fell down and the puck bounced off him and into the net for Hand’s 2-1 lead.
“That second goal was huge. Our whole crowd and bench stood up when we took that first lead,” Braumann said. “After that goal I just kept telling the guys don’t let up. We couldn’t let up.”
Dan Healey squeezed in another goal for the Tigers with less than a second — .5 seconds to be precise — left in the second period. His shot from the left circle made it 3-1.
Solin would add his second goal at 8:53 of the third period and Braumann had an empty-net goal at 13:31 for the 5-1 final.
Usseglio ended up with 18 saves for the Eagles (16-6-1).
Hand 5, East Catholic 1
(at Ingalls Rink)
Hand 0 3 2 — 5
East Catholic 1 0 0 — 1
First period—EC: Alex Manner (Pat Bishop) :44; Second period—HD: Benjamin Solin (Mike Belliveau, Danny Braumann) 2:22; Danny Braumann 10:21; Dan Healey (Benjamin Solin, Danny Braumann) 14:59; Third period—HD: Benjamin Solin (Danny Braumann) 8:53; Danny Braumann 13:31;
Shots—HD: 23; EC: 28;
Saves—HD: Chase Briggs 27; EC: Thomas Usseglio 18;
Records—East Catholic 16-6-1; Hand 13-10