WEST HAVEN — West Haven senior Matt Kelly has been known as a grinder on the ice. It came as little surprise that when coach Joe Morrell gave Kelly a specific assignment two weeks ago, Kelly responded in style.
Faced with the assignment of shadowing the opposition’s top scorer, Kelly has become a nuisance for opposing teams.
Kelly again was at his best Wednesday night, limiting North Haven’s Vin Fasulo to just one assist, as the Westies won their fourth straight game with a 4-1 victory at the Edward L. Bennett Rink.
“I take a lot of pride in shutting down a team’s best player,” Kelly said. “They are going to get away some times but that is why we have Mike (Savino) back there. It means a lot that Coach (Morrell) trusts me. It really lets the defense get a break.”
After shutting down Amity’s Adam Shea and Branford’s Tyler Hackett, Kelly was nearly perfect against the Indians, but a goal by Michael Hribko, with Fasulo picking up an assist, ended the shutout with 1 minute, 14 seconds left in the game.
“This is the third time we put him on somebody and the third time he has come up big,” Morrell said. “He has been on guys with 130 points and the assist tonight was the first point he has allowed.”
With Kelly shutting down Fasulo, West Haven goaltender Mike Savino did the rest — turning aside 35 shots, including 15 in the second period.
“Mike has played very well,” Morrell said of Savino. “He is doing a nice job for us.”
After a scoreless first period in which West Haven defenseman Devin Hines prevented a North Haven goal by clearing the puck from an open net in the first period, the Westies came out flying in the second period.
Just 2 minutes, 53 seconds into the middle period, Alex Scranton set up Jeremy Borelli who fired a low shot past North Haven goaltender Andrew Graziano from the left wing for a 1-0 lead.
After Savino denied Joe D’Amico with a glove save from the slot, the Westies (10-7-1) took a 2-0 lead less than a minute later. Jaeson Puleo picked up a loose puck and fired a shot past Graziano with 8:12 remaining.
Just 1:54 later, West Haven had a 3-0 lead. Freshman Peter Richetelli’s pass found Scranton at the point and Scranton ripped a shot past Graziano with 6:18 to go.
“We picked up the pressure in the second period,” Morrell said. “We did what we worked on in practice. We worked hard.”
Savino preserved the shutout in the period, stopping Matt Bogart from the right wing with 4:39 left in the second, denying Tyler Luedee from the side of the net 56 seconds later and seeing Hribko miss an open net with 3 seconds left in the period.
“Mental errors hurt us,” North Haven coach Tom Roche said after his team fell to 12-5-3. “Overall I am happy with the way we played. We played three hard periods. You can’t give West Haven a three-goal lead.”
The Indians tried to solve Savino in the final period, but were unable to do so until Hribko’s tally in the final 2 minutes. Savino denied Bogart’s blast from the point 7:10 in and made what may have been his best save of the night when he stoned Luedee with a beautiful pad save with 3:45 to go.
“We have to keep working,” Savino said. “We are playing together. Everyone is doing their job. There are areas we can still do better, but we are rolling right now.”
Borelli capped the scoring when he scored his second goal into an empty net with 14.8 seconds to go for the 4-1 final.
Graziano finished with 35 saves for the Indians.