EAST HAVEN — Going into Wednesday night, the goal difference was staggering.
Hand had scored 94 goals in 16 games and East Haven just 25.
Things were no different as Hand, the third-seeded team in the CIAC Division II power rankings and ranked 10th in the GameTimeCT.com state hockey poll, improved to 15-1-1 with a resounding 8-0 victory over the Yellowjackets at the Patsy DiLungo Rink.
“They bought into our system last year,” Hand coach Brian Gonsalves said. “These kids have been running our system for two years. It’s just clicking well. More importantly, it’s the other end of the ice and the zero on the scoreboard. We’re trying to be more of a shutdown team this year.”
This a year after Hand dropped down to Division III after a few lean years.
“We played a heavy Division II schedule last year and went 7-2,” Gonsalves said. “One of my goals as a program was to get back where we belong in Division II.”
Goaltender Eric Dillner was never really threatened by East Haven, which struggled to mount any offense all night. The Yellowjackets only had 17 shots and Dillner steered away all 17.
“It comes down to chemistry,” Fitzmaurice said. “People are trusting each other. There hasn’t been much movement (in the lines) since the start of the year so we’re comfortable with each other. It’s made it a lot easier.”
It was all Hand right from the start as the Tigers kept the puck in the East Haven end of the ice. Despite getting off a half dozen shots, it took 3:28 into the until Tatum Fitzmaurice scored the first of his three goals off the night from the left side. By the time, the night was over, Fitzmaurice collected his 22nd and 23rd goals of the season.
Three minutes later, East Haven’s Cory Benni hit the top of the crossbar with a shot from right in the middle. It would be the best chance the Yellowjackets had all night.
“When you give up only a couple scoring chances a night, that’s when you know you have something special going on,” Gonsalves said.
Two minutes after that, Brendan Ryan scored his eighth goal of the night, And by the end of the period, Fitzmaurice added his second of the game to make it 3-0.
Ryan added his second goal of the night just 29 seconds into the second period and Fitzmaurice completed his hat trick with 5:36 to play in the period to make it 5-0.
Joey DeAngelis scored all three goals for Hand in the third period as the Tigers broke the game wide open.
East Haven fell to 7-9. The Yellowjackets are ranked 13th in the Division II power rankings.
“I think they were the much better team than we were,” East Haven coach Lou Pane said. “They outskated us. It was an old-fashioned whipping. They showed why they are 15-1-1.”
PLAYER OF THE GAME
Hand forward Tatum Fitzmaurice scored three goals and added three assists. He now has 23 goals and 29 assists in 17 games.
“I’m very happy with the effort. It’s all about climbing that mountain and about what’s next. It started with the first shift and what’s next. Bring the work ethic, bring the hard hat and bring the pail. Let’s go to work and let our system take care of itself.”
— Hand coach Brian Gonsalves