NORTH BRANFORD — A glance over Hand’s boys hockey stats told Cheshire goalie Nick Maringola what kind of night he was going to need to have on Saturday at Northford Ice Pavilion.
Maringola had just that kind of night, beaten only on a post-and-in breakaway in the third period in the Rams’ 1-1 tie at Hand. The Tigers’ scoreboard credited him with 50 saves, 22 of them in the first period.
“Our prescout of the team, they had two guys with 30 points already, another two with 20 points each,” Maringola said. “Knowing that these guys could really pump it in the net, we had to respect that.”
Just another night for Maringola, an all-state goalie last year who’s one of the best, if not the best, goalie in the state.
The scoreboard had shots 51-28 in Hand’s favor. Cheshire had them 40-22 for the home team.
“Especially after that first period, when they put up 23 shots on goal, we knew it was going to be a long night for him,” Cheshire coach Anthony Giusto said. “I’ve been saying all year, he’s the kid who gives you a chance to win or tie every single night.”
Cheshire (7-6-2) clinched its spot in the Division II tournament with the tie. Hand is 10-1-1.
“I was pretty happy with how we played. We stayed in our game throughout the entire process, stayed away from getting frustrated,” Hand coach Brian Gonsalves said. “(Maringola) had a great game in net. That was something we talked about; we knew what we were up against. The boys answered the challenge, 50-plus shots, a lot of traffic.”
Hand dominated the start and got a power play 3:08 in.
But after Maringola made a few stops, Cheshire’s Thor Novicelli blocked a shot and raced ahead of the defender. He set up Niklas Vasiljevs for a shot that Hand goalie Eric Dillner stopped; the puck bounced back to Vasiljevs for a goal.
The penalty kill was solid for Cheshire, including on a major in overtime after Jovanny Borowski was assessed five minutes and a game for a check from behind 4:26 into the eight-minute extra period. Novicelli had another blocked shot on the major that let him draw a Hand hooking minor to even out the action for the last 27 seconds.
“I would say we probably blocked the most shots we did all season,” Giusto said. “We were trying to really get in shooting lanes today, whether sticks in lanes or bodies in shooting lanes, knowing they have a real dynamic offense that moves around a lot. We were just trying to clog the middle and take away as many shots as possible from Nick.”
The Tigers tied it with 8:53 to go after defenseman John Gagliardi broke up a Cheshire rush. Kevin Sandor sent the puck ahead to Tatum Fitzmaurice, who knocked it past a Cheshire defender, came in alone on the left side and put a shot off the right post and in.
Hand had a couple of shots ring off posts and out.
PLAYER OF THE GAME
Cheshire goalie Nick Maringola held the fort, made a bunch of early saves and was the reason the Rams got a point.
“That’s why you can’t predict what happens in hockey. I make a joke with the student section all the time, don’t leave after the second period just because the score is 4-, 5-0. You never know in this sport.” —Hand coach Brian Gonsalves, on being down 1-0 after one period despite a 22-3 shots edge