WEST HAVEN — Amity assistant hockey coach Michael Richetelli likes to believe his team works the hardest in practice. That hard work, he hopes, will help his team late in games.
Richetelli was proven correct Saturday afternoon. Trailing by a goal entering the third period, Amity rode the play of Adam Shea and his two third-period goals to defeat Branford 3-2 at the Edward L. Bennett Rink.
“We work hard in practice,” Richetelli said after his team improved to 8-6 and qualified for the state tournament. “Our goal is to work harder than everyone else in practice and it will pay off in the third period. We just keep working hard.”
Trailing 2-1 entering the final period, Amity made another comeback.
Taking a pass from Brett McNeil, Shea beat Branford goaltender A.J. Brink on a partial breakaway to even the game at 2 with 3 minutes, 12 seconds gone by in the third period.
Shea then scored the eventual game-winner with 3:53 remaining and Amity on the power play. Dalton Luciani fed McNeil who hit Shea in front. Shea trickled a shot past Brink for a 3-2 lead.
“We have really come together as a team,” Shea said after finishing the game with a hat trick. “We talked about what we want to do to turn our season around.
“The early goal was important. Taking the lead right away was huge. It seemed like the whole ice tilted in our favor.”
In between Shea’s two goals in the final period, Branford had numerous opportunities to take the lead.
Amity goaltender Brian Mosher had other thoughts.
Mosher denied Aidan Deane from the point with a glove save with 7:37 left in the game, then denied Tyler Hackett twice in a span of 10 seconds with 7:15 remaining. The first save was on a slap shot, then the following off a wrist shot.
“This is a big win for us,” McNeil said after finishing with three assists. “We qualified for states. That is big. We want to get on a winning streak.”
The game started in thrilling fashion as both teams poured early shots on goal.
Amity wasted no time as Brink was forced to make a diving save early, then saw Keating Seymour miss a one-timer in front 4:30 into the contest.
Hackett had his blast from the point tipped wide 3:25 in before Amity’s Scott Saffran took down Tyler Criscuolo on a breakaway with 7:55 remaining in the opening period. Criscuolo was awarded a penalty shot, but his attempt was denied when Mosher made a nifty pad save.
“Brian Mosher was huge for us,” Richetelli said. “Brian Mosher was the turning point of the game. He stopped that penalty shot in the first period. He hasn’t been in that situation before. It was a huge stop. It changed the momentum of the game.”
Amity finally started the scoring with 7:36 left in the opening period. Seymour was denied on a breakaway, but Shea picked up the rebound and went top shelf past Brink for a 1-0 lead.
Hackett had a golden opportunity to tie the game but he rang the post with a slap shot from the point with 5:10 to go in the opening period. Hackett would not be denied again as he sniped the top shelf under the crossbar from the top of the left circle with 3:11 left in the period to even the game at 1.
Hackett continued to have his opportunities in the second period as he hit the right post on a breakaway with 3:05 gone by. Nicholas Johnson then missed from in front 4:35 in, before Amity got going.
Brink denied Seymour from the point with a nice pad save with 5:24 left in the period and Shea shot wide from the slot.
Branford (10-2-1) countered with Patrick Cunningham hitting the post with 3:39 left.
Hackett again put Branford on top when he intercepted an Amity pass in the slot and ripped a shot by Mosher with 1:56 remaining in the period for a 2-1 lead.
“We had our opportunities,” Branford coach Adolph Brink said. “Amity is a good team. They made the plays they had to make.”
Mosher finished with 31 saves for the Spartans, while Brink had 31 for Branford.