— CTHSHockey (@CTHSHockey) February 9, 2021
WEST HAVEN — It has been a long 11 months for the high school hockey community. With the shutdown of high school sports due to the global pandemic right before the start of last year’s state tournament, Monday evening across the state was welcomed with open arms.
Throw in a good old-fashioned hockey rivalry, and the winter sports season has officially begun. That was the case on Monday night when Hamden and West Haven renewed acquaintances at the Edward L. Bennett Rink in the season opener for both teams.
Behind two goals from senior Nick Boanno, a goal and two assists from both sophomore Ben Carfora and junior D.J. Carfora, and 30 saves from senior Charlie Miller, West Haven topped Hamden 5-2 In a Southern Connecticut Conference Division I contest.
“Any time you open the season with a win against Hamden, it is a good night,” West Haven coach Steve Harris said.
After a first period which saw Hamden control a majority of the play, West Haven turned the tide in the second period, scoring twice to take a 3-1 lead.
Ben Carfora gave the Westies their first lead of the game when he took a pass from his older brother D.J. Carfora and beat Hamden goalie Ben Bielen with 4:51 gone by in the second period.
“We are an inexperienced team, but once we scored were able to keep going at them,” Ben Carfora said. “I thought we had the momentum and the play in the second period. Once we got our legs going and the butterflies out, I thought we played well.”
West Haven kept the pressure on, holding an 11-5 shot advantage in the second period, and took a 3-1 lead when Boanno raced down the left wing and beat Bielen to the top right corner with 7:37 remaining in the middle period. D. J. Carfora and freshman Jason Alling assisted on the goal.
“Obviously, it is better any time you are playing with the lead,” Harris said. “You never want to start down, but a big part was we threw the freshmen right into the fire right off the bat. They had to get the feel of it. They adapted very well.”
Hamden’s best scoring opportunity came with just over seven minutes remaining in the second, but West Haven’s Miller turned aside a sharp shot by junior Anthony Malonis.
“He was unbelievable,” Harris said of Miller. “He stepped right in for (graduated) Jared Pliszka. He made some big stops several times. He got a little more confidence with every save.”
The Green Dragons cut into the West Haven lead when Bryce Riccitelli scored an unassisted goal 3:53 into the third, but West Haven bounced right back.
“It was baptism by fire for a lot of the kids,” Hamden coach Todd Hall said. “There were a lot of good things that happened out there tonight. I thought we out chanced them, but they were able to capitalize. There is a lot to build off this.”
West Haven needed just 1:16 to once again take a two-goal lead when D.J. Carfora scored off an assist from Ben Carfora. The Westies capped the scoring 1:13 later when Boanno scored his second of the game off assists from Nico Bruneau and Anthony Peschell.
Hamden controlled the pace in the opening period despite the two teams playing to a 1-1 tie after 15 minutes.
The Green Dragons put the pressure on early as Riccitelli and Bode Becker each had shots turned aside before Jesse Fracasso buried a rebound between the legs of Miller. Kellen Sargolini and Aidan Ragusa each assisted on the opening tally with 4:26 gone by in the opening period.
The lead lasted only 1:19 as West Haven put the pressure on and scored when Mike Alfano roofed a shot past Bielen with 4:45 gone by in the game. Ben Carfora and D.J. Carfora each assisted on West Haven’s first goal of the season.
Hamden held a 14-8 shot advantage in the opening period, but West Haven had two quality shots turned away when D.J. Carfora was turned aside in front with seven minutes to go and Bruneau had his re-directed shot denied as well.
Player of the Game
Charlie Miller, West Haven: The senior goaltender made 30 saves, including 13 in the first period when the Green Dragons controlled play. Miller made 12 saves in the final 15 minutes, some from point blank range.
“It feels great to be back here. It is good to get back to playing hockey. There is nothing better. When we are here at practice, we are working hard. We are working hard and want to keep getting better and better.” — West Haven sophomore Ben Carfora