NEW HAVEN >> When it comes to Cinderella teams in sports playoffs, completing a magical run with a championship finish isn’t the easiest thing to do.
On Friday, in the CIAC Division II boys hockey championship, No. 13 Hand found that out the hard way and almost let one get away.
Hand forward Ben Solin, as he has done many times this season, found himself in the right place at the right time to complete the Tigers’ magical season.
Solin scored his third goal of the game with 3:15 left in the third period and goalie Chase Briggs had 33 saves to lead No. 13 Hand to a 5-4 win over No. 2 Amity in the CIAC Division II championship at Ingalls Rink.
Hand took a 3-0 lead after the first period but the Spartans fought back, eventually tied the game at 4, and forced a decisive third period.
“This means a lot to me and the program, and right now, I’m higher than the roof in this building,” first-year Hand coach Ken Mitchell said.
“After the first period the momentum switched but our kids stayed focused. I wasn’t sure Ben’s (game-winning) shot would go in from the blue line, but I knew it had a chance with Amity’s goalie screened by a defenseman.”
Hand (14-10) comes away with its second Division II title having won one in 2006.
Solin scored the game-winner off a long-range shot from the blue line. With time winding down and just a defenseman between him and Amity goalie Brian Mosher, he wound up and let the puck fly. The low-rising shot made it between the left post and Mosher for the goal.
“I had no idea it went after I took the shot,” Solin said. “ There was a defenseman in front of me and when I took the shot I had no idea if it was on net. When it went in it was the greatest feeling in the world.”
Amity (17-7) dominated puck possession in the first period and outshot Hand 15-10. But the Tigers finished three chances while Briggs shut the Spartans out.
Hand showcased its speed early and often in the game. Solin and Dan Braumann led a 2-on-2 breakaway down the left wing, which led to the game’s first goal. Brauman chipped the puck over to Solin who wristed a shot at the bottom of the left circle. The puck flew into the lower right corner for the 1-0 lead at 3:04 of the first period.
Solin used another impressive move to score his second goal. In the Amity zone, an Amity defender grabbed a loose puck inside the left circle. But Solin came from behind, stole the puck and fired a shot in front of the left post and past Amity goalie Brian Mosher for a 2-0 lead at 6:29.
Hand padded the lead late in the first period. With Amity’s Adam Shea serving a hooking penalty, Hand defenseman Dan Healy sent a slap shot near the right circle for a power-play goal and a 3-0 lead at 12:31.
Amity wasted no time mounting its comeback in the second period when Adam Shea scored 16 seconds into the period to cut Hand’s lead to 3-1. Shea scored again off a breakaway at 3:45 to cut the lead to 3-2.
Hand’s Mike Belliveau responded with a goal at 4:39 to make it 4-2 but the Spartans weren’t about to give up.
Brett McNeil scored at 11:50 of the second period to make it 4-3. When Kevin Ryan scored a power-play goal with 25 seconds left in the second period, the Amity faithful came roaring to their feet, setting up a hard-fought third period that led to Solin’s game-winning goal.
“Briggs is the real deal, has a great glove and kept us off the scoreboard in the first period,” Amity interim coach Scooter Richetelli said. “But we settled the guys down after the first period and they worked hard for the comeback.
“We just couldn’t finish our chances in the third period. Our kids played their hearts out and didn’t leave anything in the lockerroom. They fought back but we just couldn’t get a good bounce in that third period.”
Division II championship
HAND 5, AMITY 4
At Ingalls Rink
Hand 3 1 1 — 5
Amity 0 4 0 — 4
First period—HD: Benjamin Solin (Danny Braumann) 3:04; Benjamin Solin 6:29; Dan Healey (Benjamin Solin, Danny Braumann) 12:31; Second period—AM: Adam Shea (Dalton Luciani) 14:44; Adam Shea (Johnny Uscilla, Brett McNeil) 3:45; HD: Mike Belliveau (Benjamin Solin) 4:39; AM: Brett McNeil (Adam Shea) 11:50; Kevin Ryan (Johnny Uscilla, Dalton Luciani) 14:35; Third period—HD: Benjamin Solin (Jeff Rider) 11:45;
Shots—HD: 30; AM: 37;
Saves—AM: Brian Mosher 25; HD: Chase Briggs 33;
Records—Amity 17-9; Hand 14-10
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