DANBURY — Absorbing periods of pressure early before seizing a mid-game lead, all appeared heading the way of the Newtown boys hockey team late in the second period.
Momentum is a strange thing.
Visiting North Branford struck for three goals in the final five minutes of the second before cruising to a 5-1 win over the Nighthawks Saturday at the Danbury Ice Arena.
Jack Hanley gave Newtown a 1-0 lead by tipping home a shot from the point six seconds into the game’s first power play. The Nighthawks were buzzing for a second before the roof caved in.
“We took our foot off the gas,” Newtown coach Paul Esposito said. “Guys got complacent. We were happy with how we started playing. A few guys were doing the work and a lot of guys were just reacting.”
Junior Sean McKee sparked the turnaround for the Thunderbirds, firing a hat trick that included a shorthanded goal with 5:31 left in the second to tie the game at 1. He added two late tallies with the Nighthawks trying to rally.
“He had a strong game,” North Branford coach Ralph Shaw said. “He has that extra gear and that speed to get there, he just has to capitalize on his opportunities. Tonight, he did that. He’s a difference maker for us.”
Brendan Stoner scored the winning goal for North Branford with three minutes left in the second, diving to a loose puck right in front of the net to poke it past Newtown goalie Justin Halmost. The Thunderbirds then scored with 20 seconds left.
The Nighthawks responded to dominate the opening stages of the third, including smashing a shot off the post. The wind was taken out when McKee wrapped up the win with a goal with six minutes left.
MOVING ON UP
The Nighthawks are back in Division II after winning the SCC-SWC Division III title last March. Newtown (2-4) has lost back-to-back games after falling to Wilton last Friday.
“It’s frustrating for us because we have a lot of doubters about whether we should be in Division II,” Esposito said. “(North Branford) is a good caliber Division II team that we could have beaten. It’s frustrating.”
PLAYER OF THE GAME
Sean McKee, North Branford: In 50/50 games, difference makers can break a game wide open.
“We’re a young squad, but we’ve got some tough opponents,” said Shaw, referring to a strong junior class who did most of the damage Saturday. “I’m happy with our start. Hopefully we’ll get a stretch of wins and continue to improve. It’s a work in progress.”
NORTH BRANFORD 5, NEWTOWN 1
NORTH BRANFORD0 3 2—5
NEWTOWN0 1 0—1
Records: North Branford 3-2, Newtown 2-4.
Goals: NB—Sean Mckee 3, Jacob Neubig, Brendan Stoner; N—Jack Hanley. Assists: NB—McKee, Stoner, Nick Mancini; N—Devin Marsh. Goalies: NB—Jacob Montanaro (19 saves); N—Justin Halmost (22 saves). Shots: NB 26, N 20.