WEST HAVEN — The Amity hockey season has been a tale of two halves.
The first half could not have gone any better with the Spartans winning all seven games. The next six games could not have gone any worse, with the Spartans dropping each one.
Amity finally broke the streak with a stellar effort Saturday afternoon. Behind a fine defensive effort, 24 saves from Malachi Zurolo, and scoring from Jason Csejka (two goals) and Nicholas Kiwanis, Amity topped East Haven 3-1 in a Division II contest at the Edward L. Bennett Rink.
“We got a nice, solid effort from everybody today,” Amity coach Michael Richetelli said after his team qualified for the state tournament with the win. “Everyone contributed. It is a lot of pressure off us for sure. I knew it was a best case, worst case scenario beating Notre Dame. They are a solid team. We knew it may take a couple games to get through that. But, we bounced back today. This is a great group of kids.”
With Amity (8-6) leading by one goal in the third period, Kiwanis helped seal Amity’s first win in seven games when his shot from the left side deflected twice in front past East Haven goaltender Logan Hamilton 4 minutes, 44 seconds into the final period.
The goal by Kiwanis would prove to be the insurance tally Amity needed as Zurolo turned aside eight shots in the final period, including late pressure when East Haven was on the power play in the final 3:33 of the contest.
“The guys just cleared the front out for me,” Zurolo said. “They were able to keep the puck to the outside and in the other zone. They did a great job in front of me.”
East Haven (6-8-1) made things interesting with 24.8 seconds left on the power play and with Hamilton pulled for an extra skater. Alec Speirs scored off a scramble in front to get the Easties within a goal, but the momentum was short-lived.
Off assists from Caleb Marcin and Kenny Page, Csejka scored into an empty net with 10.5 seconds to go for the 3-1 final.
“That’s what we expect him to do,” Richetelli said of Csejka. “We want that line out there. They do a good job of putting the puck in the net. But, let’s not forget the work of the other two lines which allows them to do what they do.”
In a first period which saw the Spartans hold a 14-8 shot advantage, Amity also scored the lone goal. With 4:44 remaining in the period, Csejka took a pass from Page and broke towards Hamilton, before using a nifty move to give the Spartans a 1-0 advantage. Ethan Moffett also had a helper on the goal.
Hamilton did a fine job keeping his team in the game in the opening period as he turned aside 13 shots. The East Haven goaltender was at his best, denying Csejka twice in front in a span of 35 seconds, once with a blocker save and another with a pad save.
“I thought we competed all game long,” East Haven coach Lou Pane said. “I thought we contained everything to the outside. I thought we did a good job defensively. We had some opportunities we did not capitalize on. We had a puck slide across the crease. You have to capitalize on those, especially against teams like Amity.”
Zurolo was equally impressive in the opening 15 minutes, stopping Ryan Egan in front along with the rebound 3:38 in, and turning aside Richard Persico from the right wing.
Hamilton was the story of the second period as he turned aside all 20 shots he faced. The East Haven junior denied Kiwanis from the right faceoff circle with a pad save 1:16 in, then stopped Tyler Demaio with a sliding save in front with 9:43 to go.
Hamilton stopped Marcin point blank a minute later, before turning aside Zack Cable in front with 5:43 to go, and Page from the point with a blocker save with 3:58 to go.
Zurolo turned aside eight shots in the middle period, with his best coming in the final 3:30 of the period when he denied Jonathan Moscato on a two-on-one break with a blocker save, before turning aside Moscato again 20 seconds later.
Player of the Game
Logan Hamilton – The East Haven goaltender turned aside 43 shots, keeping his team in the contest, despite falling short.
“We are all working hard together and coming together as a team. It feels great to get in.”
— Amity goaltender Malachi Zurolo
Amity 3, East Haven 1
East Haven 0 0 1 — 1
Amity 1 0 2 — 3
First Period: A – Jason Csejka (Kenny Page, Ethan Moffett) 4:44; Third Period: A – Nicholas Kiwanis 10:16; E – Alec Speirs (Cory Benni) 0:25; A – Jason Csejka (Caleb Marcin, Kenny Page) 0:11; Shots: EH 25; A 46; Saves: EH – Logan Hamilton – 43; A – Malachi Zurolo – 24
Records: East Haven 6-8-1; Amity 8-6-0