MILFORD – As the season progresses, special teams usually plays a part in determining the success or failures of a team. Such was the case Saturday afternoon.
Scoring twice on the power play and adding two more while short-handed, Branford rolled to a 6-2 victory over Milford in a Division II contest at the Milford Ice Pavilion.
“Our power play has been going well,” Branford coach James DiNapoli said. “But, I thought the way we opened up the second period with two short-handed goals was a big point in the game.”
The pair of short-handed goals by the Hornets put some cushion between the two teams as they turned a one-goal game into a 4-1 Branford lead just 1 minute, 11 seconds into the middle period.
Just 17 seconds into the second period, the forechecking of the Hornets caused a turnover in front, which sophomore Blake Kustra quickly ripped past the blocker of Milford goaltender A.J. Bolduc. Just 54 seconds later, while still a man down, the Hornets’ Jack Manware broke down the right wing, deked, and put a backhander between the legs of Bolduc for a 4-1 Branford advantage.
“Coach told us we needed to put the game away in the second period,” Manware said after finishing with a pair of goals. “We got the two short-handed goals. They were big as we were able to extend the lead.”
Branford did not relent with the pressure in the second period, holding a 13-6 shot advantage, and taking a 5-2 lead with a power play goal. Junior Max Bunton extended the margin to 5-1 when he ripped a shot under the crossbar from the left faceoff circle with 5:43 remaining in the middle period.
“They scored two short-handed goals and two power play goals,” Milford coach Sal Follo said. “I thought at times we were in control, but we took some costly penalties. We were very undisciplined with the penalties. That hurt us at times. That is something we need to work on.”
The Hornets dominated play in the opening period, but only managed a one-goal lead after the first 15 minutes of play.
Branford struck first just 1:28 into the game when Robert Lionetti scored off an assist from David Engstrom. Milford (2-4) had just three shots in the opening period, but capitalized on one when Matt Gilebbi scored off assists from Ryan Ahern and Jared Hubler to even the game at one 4:37 in.
Again it was special teams which put the Hornets back on top. With 4:46 remaining in the opening period, Manware scored his first of the game with a power play goal off assists from Bunton and Engstrom for a 2-1 Branford lead.
“Special teams has been big for us over the first five games,” DiNapoli said. “We are hopeful we can continue that.”
Bolduc faced 26 shots in the opening two periods for Milford and had to come up with several big saves to keep his team in the game. The Milford sophomore came up big in the middle period when he denied both Theodore Kirby and Engstrom in front with glove saves 1:43 apart, then made a blocker save to deny Engstrom in close again with 6:26 remaining in the middle period.
“I though A.J. played a good game,” Follo said of Bolduc. “He faced a lot of shots.”
The two teams traded goals in the third period with Engstrom giving the Hornets a 6-1 lead off assists from Lionetti and Connor Erickson, before Milford scored the final goal of the game with 7:40 to go when Santiago Palacio tallied off an assist from Joe Stacy.
Lionetti and Engstrom led the Hornets as each finished with a goal and two assists. Branford freshman goaltender Jared Yakimoff made 10 saves in the win.
BRANFORD 6, MILFORD 2
B – 2 3 1 – 6 (4-0-1)
M – 1 0 1 – 2 (2-4)
B – Robert Lionetti (David Engstrom) 13:32
M – Matt Gilebbi (Ryan Ahern, Jared Hubler) 10:23
B – Jack Manware (Max Bunton, David Engstrom) 4:46
B – Blake Kustra 14:43
B – Jack Manware 13:49
B – Max Bunton (Robert Lionetti) 5:43
B – David Engstrom (Robert Lionetti, Connor Erickson) 13:46
M – Santiago Palacio (Joe Stacy) 7:40
B – 36
M – 12
B – Jared Yakimoff – 10
M – AJ Bolduc – 21, Derek Ouellette – 9