NORTHFORD — For 29 minutes and 54 seconds, the North Haven hockey team had East Haven exactly where it wanted it. It was the final 6 seconds of the middle period that proved to be North Haven’s downfall.
Using Mike Falanga’s power-play goal with 6.1 seconds left in the middle period to even the game, East Haven, the No. 7 team in the Register Top 10 poll, erupted for three goals in the final 3:32 of the game to defeat the Indians 5-2 at the Northford Ice Pavilion Thursday afternoon.
“The goal was big,” East Haven coach Lou Pane said after his team improved to 14-2. “We were chasing two early goals and put ourselves in a nice little hole to climb out of.
“After the first period, I thought we were in better shape than what we played. I thought we were a half step quicker.”
Falanga finished the game with three goals and an assist, while his linemate Tristan Goodwin had two goals and an assist.
“I am very happy,” Pane said. “This game scared me because we scored more in the Hamden game and sometimes you get a letdown. That third period was big for us.”
Using the end of the second period as a spark, the Yellowjackets were all over the Indians in the final 15 minutes. Only the play of North Haven goaltender Andrew Graziano prevented the Yellowjackets from taking the lead.
Graziano denied Jake Delguidice from the point 5 minutes into the third, then made a huge pad save on a blast from Matt Longobardi with 7:33 remaining.
“This was a big game for us,” Graziano said. “Obviously it started off well. They cut into the lead in the first period, but we were still in a good position. The goal with 6 seconds left was big.”
East Haven finally solved Graziano with 3:32 remaining. Falanga took the initial shot that Graziano stopped, but the rebound went right to Goodwin who had an empty net to shoot at for a 3-2 lead.
Falanga then sealed the contest with a pair of goals in the final 1:52. Falanga’s second of the game gave East Haven a 4-2 lead off an assist from Joseph D’Albero, before Falanga’s power-play tally with 50 seconds remaining off an assist from Goodwin gave East Haven three power-play goals and a 5-2 victory.
The Indians jumped out to a quick 2-0 lead with a pair of goals less than 4 minutes apart to start the game.
With the game starting nearly 20 minutes late, North Haven was more than ready to go.
Just 1:56 into the game, Vin Fasulo gave his team an early lead when he beat East Haven goaltender Tom DeLucia for an unassisted goal. Just 3:50 later, the Indians had a 2-0 lead as sophomore Josh Back scored off assists from John Jensen and Pasquale Liuzzi.
The Indians (11-4-3) had an opportunity to extend the lead with 5:25 to go in the first period, but DeLucia stoned Fasulo with a stick save in front. From that point on, the Yellowjackets turned on the heat, which slowly paid
Graziano kept East Haven off the board when he denied a shot by Goodwin and the rebound by Longobardi with 5:10 to go in the opening period. The Yellowjackets were not to be held back for long.
“Before tournament time, playing Division I teams will prepare us for teams we will see in Division II,” Graziano said. “We have one more Division I game against West Haven and we want to win that game.”
Mounting the pressure, East Haven forced the Indians into a hooking penalty with less than 3 minutes remaining in the period and capitalized on the power play with 1:52 remaining. Jake Delguidice’s shot was deflected home in front by Goodwin to cut the East Haven deficit in half.
The second period pressure belonged to East Haven, but Graziano was the star. He came up big, denying Goodwin in close just 1 minute into the middle period, stopping Dylan Butler in front with 4:59 remaining and stoning both Goodwin and Falanga within 35 seconds with pad saves.
Graziano made nine saves in the period, but it was East Haven’s last shot on the power play that eluded him.
Again on the power play, the Yellowjackets needed little time to capitalize as Falanga scored off an assist from Longobardi with 6.1 seconds to go to even the game at 2.