BRIDGEPORT >> When Todd Hall was named the new coach for the Hamden boys hockey team in the offseason, one of his goals was to introduce a conditioning program that would improve his team’s stamina from start to finish every game.
It was a formula that has helped FCIAC powers Darien and Greenwich be successful, and Hall felt it was something his team needed to be competitive with those teams.
It has come in handy all season.
Brendan Berube scored the game-winning goal at 2:07 of overtime, and Steven Turner had 24 saves to lead No. 13 Hamden to a 3-2 upset of No. 5 Greenwich in a CIAC Division I quarterfinal at Webster Bank Arena on Saturday.
Hamden had a faceoff in the left circle at Greenwich’s end of the ice. Hamden’s James Smyth won the faceoff and passed to Todd Deskin who blasted a shot from the top of the left circle. Berube sensed the puck was coming and redirected it into the net for the game-winning goal.
“All year coach has been telling us about earning the bounces and today we earned it,” Berube said. “I knew when Todd took the shot where he was going with the puck, so I redirected it to make sure it went into the net.
“This is amazing, it’s a great feeling.”
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How important has conditioning been for Hamden this season? This was Hamden’s 11th overtime contest in 22 games played this season. They are 7-2-2 in those games.
“Although we’ve been in 11 OT games you don’t want to be there,” Hall said. “It’s crazy because the result can go any way. Call it stamina, call it adrenalin but our kids have reached deep down and played hard in every game.
“They had to battle hard in this game because Greenwich is a solid team. Greenwich’s strength is defense with their goalie and a solid group of defensemen. All our kids worked hard, but our goalie did a fantastic job keeping us in this game. It’s great to be going to Ingalls Rink my first year, but it’s great to be there if it’s your first or 20th year as coach.”
Hamden will face SCC-SWC rival No. 9 Fairfield Prep in the semifinals on Wednesday at Ingalls Rink in New Haven at 5:30 p.m. or 7:30 p.m. Prep defeated SCC-SWC rival No. 1 seed Xavier 1-0 in another quarterfinal game.
“Playing in all those OT games helped prepare me for today,” Turner said. “I think our conditioning gave us a huge advantage in this game. Everyone played so hard and our fans gave us a lot of great support today.”
In a scoreless first period, Greenwich outshot Hamden 10-4 and both goalies had their moments.
Mike Mozian had three shots on goal, but one of his best chances came when he was wide open at the right circle. He took a slap shot, but Turner made the stick save at 4:55.
Robert McKiernan had a pair of solid chances to score, but Greenwich’s Nick Bozzuto came up with the stick save each time. His most exciting opportunity came with 5 seconds left in the period. He bolted down the left wing and fired a shot in front of the left post. But Bozzuto was there with his pad to make the save and keep the game scoreless at the first intermission.
Both goalies came up with solid saves in the second period, but the Cardinals were able to get a puck by Turner.
At the bottom of the left circle, Oliver Fulton took a pass and skated a few feet closer to Turner. He wristed a shot into the lower left corner for the 1-0 lead at 9:50 of the second period.
The Green Dragons took advantage of a Greenwich penalty early in the third period to tie the game at 1. There was a scramble for the puck in front of Bozzuto and Hamden’s Jake Blackwell dug out the puck. He passed to Tyler Webb who wristed a shot past Bozzuto’s outstretched stick for a power-play goal and 1-1 tie at 4:19.
— Cole Darling (@CDarling11) March 12, 2016
Webb sent the Hamden faithful to their feet at 5:48 when he unleashed a hard slap shot from about eight feet in front of the net to give the Green Dragons a 2-1 lead.
The Cardinals immediately called time out after the goal was scored and regrouped.
Ben Pratley sent a slap shot from the top of the right circle that Alex Mozian redirected into the net to tie the game at 2 for Greenwich at 6:51 of the third period, setting up the exciting overtime finish.
Enter Berube with his game-winning goal.
“This was a really great game and I would have liked to have been a fan in the stands watching,” Greenwich coach Bob Russel said. “As a coach it was a little disappointing. Our kids played hard and we controlled the opportunities late in the game.
“But all it takes is one shot at the right time and they had that shot.”