MILFORD — For many, the high school hockey season ended with a state championship last weekend at Yale University’s Ingalls Rink. For others, the season ended in disappointment.
Saturday at the Milford Ice Pavilion, many players had another opportunity to get on the ice in the Fifth Annual Connecticut High School Coaches Association Junior and Senior Select contests. Divided into Gold and Blue teams, it was a sweep for the Gold teams as the juniors posted a 2-1 victory and the seniors won 5-3.
“This has continued to grow,” Milford coach and CHSCA executive board member Sal Follo said. “Once the season is over, the kids get to play another couple of weeks. The kids look forward to it. They really want to make the team.”
The games also produce 20 players combined from each of the two junior and senior teams that will play against a Massachusetts team next Saturday at the Milford Ice Pavilion. The junior team will play at 3 p.m. and the senior team at 5 p.m.
“The kids really want to play in that game,” Follo said. “There is that sense of pride. We pick two goalies, six defensemen and 12 forwards. These kids are working hard to play in that game.”
In the opener in the junior contest, a pair of locals who played on the same team during the high school season were paired against each other on Saturday. West Haven’s defenseman Devin Hines and goaltender Mike Savino were on opposite sides, but each was selected to play in next week’s contest against Massachusetts.
“It means a lot to play in this game,” Hines said. “I know next year I will be looked to for my leadership. It all starts now. I know I have to step up next year.”
Savino was brilliant in his period of hockey as he started for the Blue team and faced 17 shots in the opening period. Only a goal by Cheshire’s Matt Jordan 31 seconds in eluded the West Haven goaltender as he made 16 saves, some of the brilliant variety, in his 18 minutes of action.
“It was tough at first going from baseball back to hockey,” Savino said of not playing hockey in two weeks. “But, I felt good out there. It felt good to be playing against the top kids in the state.”
Branford’s A.J. Brink was also solid in goal for the Blue team as the Gold team failed to get anything by the Hornets’ netminder. Brink is well aware his high school team has unfinished business ahead after being eliminated by Milford in the quarterfinals of the state tournament.
“I am still not fully over it. I will use it as motivation,” Brink said. “This is the start of preparing for next year. We have to do it even off the ice. We can’t wait.
“I am honored to be picked to play in this game. It truly is amazing.”
In the senior contest, East Haven’s Tristan Goodwin and Milford’s Ben Lavallee continued where they left off in
the high school season. Goodwin was named the Gold team’s most valuable player with three goals, including the game’s opening tally just 17 seconds in.
“This is a good time,” Goodwin said after being named to the Connecticut team for next week’s contest. “This feels amazing to be part of. I love that I get a chance to play for Connecticut. It is a great feeling to be able to play for your state and represent Connecticut.”
Goodwin and New Milford’s Steven Berry were a formidable combination as Berry also added a goal and an assist in the win.
“We had the tryout and we seemed to be all over the place,” Goodwin said. “But, we just clicked. We worked well together.”
While Goodwin and Berry were leading the Gold team, Milford’s Lavallee was named the Blue team’s most valuable player with a pair of goals. Lavallee, who was named to the Connecticut team, evened the game at 2 when he scored with 1:50 left in the second, then knocked a rebound to the back of the net just 39 seconds after Berry’s goal to even the game at 3 with 12:10 left in regulation.
“I did not want my high school career to end,” Lavallee said. “It was nice to get a win here. It is awesome to play in this game. All the kids are really good players. It was great.”
Goodwin iced the contest and recorded the hat trick when he scored into an empty net with 40.2 seconds remaining.