Entering this season, North Haven coach Tomn Roche believed the Indians could be competitive with their three solid lines and strong goaltending.
After all, that combination has a history of leading teams to success on the Division II level. North Haven players set the lofty preseason goals of competing for a Southern Connecticut Conference/South-West Conference Division II Hockey League tournament championship and Division II state title.
If the first half of the season is any indication, the Indians certainly have the potential to realize their goals after getting off to a 7-1-2 start (3-1-2 league record).
“We had high expectations this year and I’m not surprised by our start,” Roche said. “We have good goaltending with Andrew Graziano and Chris Pullano and that has helped us out significantly. Our starting goalie (Graziano) has been very strong in net with some big saves, along with Pullano. We run three lines and we’re comfortable playing all of them.
“(Our first line of) Vin Fasuolo (14 goals, six assists), Chris Lion (four goals, eight assists) and Tyler Luedee have been working well offensively and our green line of Cam Owens, Mike Tantorski and Mike Hribko have 19 goals among themselves. Our red line is anchored by Joe D’Amico and John Jensen, who can be aggressive and force opponents to make mistakes.”
The defense is led by Matt Bogart, Phil Gauvin and Kyle VanBramer.
The Indians had a big test on Saturday against league foe Branford (6-1-1, 1-0-1) and the two teams played to a 3-3 tie.
“I think we’re a contender for the (SCC-SWC tournament) title, but the SCC-SWC has a lot of good teams and any one of them can win,” Roche said. “I think Branford is very good but New Milford (of the SWC), who just joined the SCC, is big and strong. You can’t forget the other local teams also like Hand, North Branford, Milford and Guilford.”
Roche believes North Haven can play even better the second half of the season.
“Even though we’ve been winning some games, I don’t think we’ve been playing our best hockey,” Roche said. “We definitely have a lot of room for improvement. As a team, we continue to struggle in our defensive zone.
“We’ve always been a team that focuses on team play and overall team goals, not individual stats and points. This team wants to win a championship, but we still have a lot of hockey left.”
Branford faring well
Branford has also been blessed with a balanced offense and solid goaltending. The team is led by forwards Tyler Hackett (seven goals, 13 assists), Tyler Criscuolo (12 goals, six assists), Tony Pascale (six goals, five assists) and Jason Vitale (seven goals, two assists). A.J. Brink, Branford coach Adolph Brink’s son, handles the goaltending duties.
“We’ve been fortunate to have a good start due to evenly distributed scoring with solid defense and goaltending,” Adolph Brink said. “But to continue our success moving forward we must continue with the team-first philosophy. There is a great deal of parity at the top of the SCC-SWC Division II league. I think you’d have to look at North Haven and New Milford as the top teams to date in our league.”