NORTH BRANFORD >> Like any other high school boys hockey player, North Haven senior forward Mike Tantorski spent many years learning the fundamentals of the game. Fortunately for the Indians, one of those lessons stuck with Tantorski over the years.
Tantorski scored a momentum-changing goal that would propel No. 5 North Haven to a 6-2 win over No. 12 North Branford in the first round of the CIAC Division II tournament at the Northford Ice Pavilion on Tuesday.
It was an evenly played first two periods with the score tied at 2 in the third period. There was a scramble in front of North Branford goalie Will McEwen and a North Haven player took a shot on goal. When McEwen made the stop, players for both teams stopped playing thinking the play was dead. That is, everyone except Tantorski.
The puck was still loose near the left post. Tantorski quickly stuffed it into the net and when the red light behind the net went on, just about everyone on the ice was surprised, except for Tantorski.
“I was always taught by my coaches to play to the whistle,” Tantorski said. “When there is no whistle, you don’t stop playing. Everyone around me just stopped playing. But as soon as I saw the puck I just hit it into the net.
“We knew that third goal was important, that whoever scored first in the third period would have the upper hand. That third goal really fired us up and it was one of the bigger goals I scored this season. We all sensed the momentum change after that goal.”
North Haven (13-6-3) advances to the quarterfinals on Friday and will face SCC-SWC rival No. 13 Hand (11-10) at a site and time to be determined. Hand defeated No. 4 Newington/Berlin/Manchester 4-1 in another first round game.
“It took us a while to get started, but we finally put it all together in that third period,” North Haven coach Tom Roche said. “Once we went up 3-2 you could see it took a little wind out of North Branford’s sails.
“We were also motivated in this game after a disappointing loss in the semifinals to Amity in the SCC-SWC (D-II) tournament.”
In the first period, the teams traded goals for a 1-1 tie at the first intermission. Pasquale Liuzzi scored the game’s first goal to give North Haven a 1-0 lead at 6:55 of the first period. Dominic Raccio answered for the Thunderbirds with a wrist shot in front of the left postto tie the game at 1 at 10:04 of the first period.
Each team added a goal in the second period with Adam Burkle giving North Branford a 2-1 lead at 1:07 and Cam Owens tying the game at 2 for the Indians at 11:15.
When Tantorski scored in the third period it initiated a four-goal barrage by the Indians. Vin Fasulo made it 4-2 at 12:44, Tyler Luedee added an empty-net goal at 13:42 to make it 5-2 and Liuzzi scored his second goal with 33 seconds left in the game for the 6-2 final.
“We were only skating two lines and we just ran out of steam,” North Branford coach Ralph Shaw said. “I’m really proud of my guys and how they played. They worked so hard.”
North Haven goalie Andrew Graziano had 26 saves and McEwen had 28.
North Haven 6, North Branford 2
(at North Haven)
North Branford 1 1 0 — 2
North Haven 1 1 4 — 6
First period—NH: pasquale liuzzi 6:55; NoBfd: Dom Raccio 10:04; Second period—NoBfd: Adam Burkle (Brendan Appi) 1:07; NH: Cameron Owens (Vin Fasulo) 11:15; Third period—NH: Mike Tantorski 2:47; Vin Fasulo 12:44; Tyler Luedee (Vin Fasulo) 13:42; pasquale liuzzi 14:27;
Shots—NoBfd: 34; NH: 28;
Saves—NoBfd: Will McEwen 28; NH: Andrew Graziano 26;
Records—North Haven 13-6-3; North Branford 10-11.