WEST HAVEN — Looking to get off to a quick start in the season, Tom Roche and his North Haven hockey team knew they would be in for a battle in the season opener against Amity. A big-second period by the Indians did the trick.
Scoring four times in a 9-minute span in the middle period, including two goals apiece by Vin Fasulo and Cameron Owens, the Indians battled to a 7-4 win over the Spartans in the season opener for both teams Wednesday night at the Edward L. Bennett Rink.
“This was a very important game for us,” Roche said. “We have struggled with Amity the last few years. The second period was big for us. We seemed to pick it up.
“I thought we became more aggressive. We were timid and lax in the first period. We picked it up in the second period.”
Fasulo finished the game with three goals, Owens had two goals and an assist and senior Michael Tanktorski had one goal and two assists in the win for the Indians.
“This is a huge win for us,” Fasulo said. “They have beaten us the last few years with comebacks. We worked hard. This is a confidence builder.”
With the game even at 1, North Haven wasted no time setting the tone of the contest early in the middle period. Just 42 seconds into the second period, Tanktorski set up Owens off the right wing and Owens snapped a shot past Amity goaltender Brian Mosher to the left side for a 2-1 lead.
“I thought the second goal gave us momentum,” Fasulo said. “We just rode it. We picked it up.”
North Haven fired 17 shots at Mosher in the middle period and converted once again with 10:10 to go. Positioned out front, Fasulo increased the margin to 3-1 off assists from Christopher Lion and Philip Gauvin.
“We picked it up and came at them,” Roche said. “This is big for us. Amity is a very good team and is well coached. They are a quality team.”
Amity assistant coach Mike Richetelli could not have liked what he saw in the middle period as the Spartans and Mosher were under pressure the entire period. Just 1:04 after Fasulo’s goal, the Indians scored again when Tanktorski set up Owens’ backhander in front for a three-goal lead.
“We were caught a little off guard,” Richetelli said. “They pressured us in the second period. They had a strong period.”
The barrage finally ended with 5:18 remaining in the period with Fasulo’s second goal. After a shot from the point, Fasulo picked up a loose puck and beat Mosher for a 5-1 North Haven lead.
“The second period was huge for us,” Fasulo said. “We picked it up and kept it going.”
The Spartans finally got going in the final 5 minutes of the period. After both John Crocker and Adam Shea were denied in front by North Haven goaltender Andrew Graziano 3 minutes apart, Amity cut the lead to 5-2.
A great individual effort by Brett McNeil gave the Spartans some life heading into the break when McNeil split the North Haven defense and beat Graziano from in front with an unassisted goal with 26.9 seconds to go in the second period for his second goal.
“I was proud the guys never gave up,” Richetelli said. “They never quit. They worked hard. We talked about winning the (third) period and see what happens.”
Any momentum Amity had entering the third period quickly disappeared as the Indians struck first 57 seconds into the final period. Owens returned the favor to Tanktorski with a nice pass in front for Tanktorski’s first goal and a 6-2 lead.
Keating Seymour and Adam Shea got Amity within 6-4 with 3:10 remaining, but Fasulo sealed the North Haven win with a goal 45 seconds later.
Amity opened the scoring in the game before the Indians ran off five straight goals. Zach Shelnitz set up McNeil with 2:26 left in the opening period, but North Haven responded when Lion scored with a nice hesitation move on an odd-man rush with 1:42 left in the opening period.
Graziano finished with 32 saves in the win, while Mosher made 31 saves.