— Michael Suppe (@Mike_Suppe) February 13, 2020
SHELTON — Riding a hot goaltender down the stretch has been a successful formula for many hockey teams at every level.
Staples junior goalie Graham Day provided a perfect example of a boys’ hockey team rallying behind its backstop in a 1-1 tie with host Trumbull in an FCIAC West Division showdown on Wednesday night at the Rinks at Shelton,
Day notched 47 saves, while sophomore Ben Epes netted the equalizer for the Wreckers with 1:55 left in regulation.
“The kid is a rock back there,” Staples head coach Matt Bohn said. “We are really lucky he came to the program as a junior. He’s done nothing but impress us. He’s our backbone. The guys really rally around him.”
Day made a string of highlight-reel saves in overtime. He also received some well-deserved help from the crossbar, as Trumbull forward Collin Mallozzi rattled one off the pipe with 85 seconds left in overtime.
“We came off a game against Westhill, I got a lot of shots in that game too,” said Day, who made 61 saves in that 4-2 setback. “We just have the mentality bend don’t break. Defense wins championships… I think our hard work on the boards showed tonight.”
Trumbull grabbed a 1-0 edge at 3:01 of the second period, as Owen Finnegan fired one past a screened Day. John Guerrera and Jack McLean provided the assists.
Donny Ryan then had a chance to double the Eagle advantage. The senior forward broke away through center ice unimpeded, but Day made a pad save with 4:58 left in the stanza.
“We had a lot of opportunities,” Trumbull head coach Greg Maxey said. “We need to find a way to finish, make some plays down low. You let a guy get into a groove and all of a sudden, he’s stopping everything.”
Day also denied Guerrera in the slot, as the junior forward appeared to have an open net before the Wrecker netminder sprawled across the goalmouth to kick the puck away.
In the first period, Staples kept up the pressure with a strong forecheck, but Trumbull created the first good chance. Guerrera’s one-timer was denied by Day, before Alex Tsymbalyuk notched two big saves on the other end for Trumbull.
Victor Sarazin’s knuckling shot was stopped by Tsymbalyuk, who also knocked away Jack Glickman’s rebound attempt.
Two more saves by Day, first on McLean and then on Guerrera after a nifty blind pass along the boards by McLean, kept the game goalless at the first intermission.
“He does a great job,” Maxey said of Day. “That’s kind of been our problem all year. We’re a low-scoring team, our goalie is very solid, our scores are all pretty low, but we have a tough time finishing.”
An inability to add to its narrow margin ended up costing the Eagles, who celebrated their Senior Night. Trumbull, 8-7-1 overall, is 1-4 in games decided by one goal this year.
“You can’t sit on a one-goal game against a D3 team in the third period,” Maxey said.
Epes, with assists from William Richards and Owen Sherman, leveled the game at 1 late in regulation. The sophomore corralled the puck in the left slot and slung it past Tsymbalyuk.
That set the stage for the frenetic overtime, where Day came up 12 more saves in the eight-minute session to salvage the tie.
Earning its first point against a Division II opponent could serve as a spark for the Wreckers (4-10-1), as they look to qualify for the Division III postseason.
“I do think we’ve been a little up-and-down this year,” Bohn said. “We do have that tough FCIAC schedule. To be honest, I don’t think our record reflects what kind of team we are. To be playing like this down the stretch, hanging with these D2 teams, whether Graham is making a million saves or not, we’re in the game. That’s huge for us at this point in the season.”
TRUMBULL 1, STAPLES 1
STAPLES…………………………..0 0 1 0—1
TRUMBULL………………………0 1 0 0— 1