WEST HAVEN — Early in a pandemic season, there may not be many must-win contests. Do not tell that to the West Haven hockey team.
Behind a goal and an assist each from Ben Carfora, Nick Boanno and Nico Bruneau, and 18 saves from Charlie Miller, West Haven topped Immaculate 5-1 in a Southern Connecticut Conference Division I contest at the Edward L. Bennett Rink Saturday afternoon.
“We had to get back to .500,” Boanno said. “After Monday’s loss, we knew we needed a better effort. I thought we did a good job. We cycled the puck well. We need to keep the momentum rolling to Monday (at Notre Dame-Fairfield).”
West Haven was coming off a thorough beating at the hands of Notre Dame-Fairfield and had five days to practice and figure out what went wrong. A more physical and faster West Haven team scored once in the opening period and added three more in the second for a commanding 4-1 lead.
“We have been working hard in practice,” West Haven coach Steve Harris said. “The intensity was there. We had a good week of practice and took it into today. I am proud of the way we played.”
Leading by three goals, West Haven took control 12 seconds into the third period when Nico Bruneau scored in front with an assist from Michael Kelly for a 5-1 lead.
“We had some good practices this week,” Bruneau said. “We worked on our power play and scored how we practiced. This was a huge game. I felt like it could have been bad for the season if we had lost.”
The pace picked up in the middle period and the Westies capitalized with three goals, one coming while on the power play, for a 4-1 lead after 30 minutes of play.
West Haven scored twice on the power play in the game and did not allow an Immaculate goal with the extra man in three opportunities.
“We have been working on our power play in practice,” Boanno said. “We have been working on our systems and I thought we did them very well today.”
West Haven needed just 42 seconds of the middle period to take a 2-0 lead when Bruneau fed D.J. Carfora, who circled around and ripped a shot to the top corner for a two-goal advantage.
West Haven built a 3-0 lead 1:35 later when junior Mike Alfano found an open Mike Madera on the left wing. Madera skated in the Immaculate zone and beat goaltender Harrison Palmer low to the blocker side for the freshman’s first career goal.
Immaculate called timeout after the goal and the pause seemed to wake the Mustangs up.
The constant pressure paid off when Jeffney Peterson banged in a rebound past West Haven goaltender Charlie Miller, off assists from Malcolm Thompson and Timothy Hayden, with 6:56 to go in the second to cut the deficit to 3-1.
“We picked it up after that, but their goalie (Miller) played phenomenal,” Immaculate coach Brian Lugo said. “They clog the middle very well. Our shots were coming from the outside. We were missing and we were giving them break-out opportunities. We were setting them up.”
The game remained that way until the Westies went on the power play late in the second. This time. It was perfect passing from Ryan Bernardi to Boanno to Ben Carfora, which set up a one-timer by Ben Carfora past Palmer with 1:15 remaining in the second for a 4-1 advantage.
With a sloppy first period by both teams, West Haven finally took the lead on the power play with less than a minute to go in the opening stanza.
Ben Carfora won the draw over to Boanno, who skated in front and used a back-hander to beat Palmer with 29.5 seconds left in the period.
Boanno’s goal was the only dent in the scoreboard in the opening 15 minutes as Miller came up big with 8:50 to go, denying a one-timer by Immaculate junior Freddy Brasli with a dazzling glove save.
“I think that save in the first period was big and could have been the difference in the game,” Harris said. “We could have been down 1-0 and chasing them. He makes that saves and we get one late and it is a different game.”
West Haven also had a golden opportunity earlier in the period, but Palmer turned aside a shot by Kelly who came in on a 2-on-1 rush with Boanno 3:09 into the contest.
Players of the Game
Ben Carfora, Nick Boanno, Nico Bruneau — West Haven forwards combined for six points in the game, with each picking up a goal and an assist.
“I thought we played an all-around good game. We found the open guys and got shots on net. Our defense got shots from the point. It was a good effort.”
— West Haven’s Nick Boanno
WEST HAVEN 5, IMMACULATE 1
Immaculate 0 1 0 — 1
West Haven1 3 1 — 5
1st Period: W — Nick Boanno (Ben Carfora) 0:29.5; 2nd Period: W — D.J. Carfora (Nico Bruneau) 14:18; W — Mike Madera (Mike Alfano) 12:43; I — Jeffney Peterson (Malcolm Thompson, Timothy Hayden) 6:56; W — Ben Carfora (Nick Boanno, Ryan Bernardi) 1:15; 3rd Period: W — Nico Bruneau (Michael Kelly) 14:48
Records: Immaculate 2-3; West Haven 3-3
Editor’s note: Mike Madera, who scored West Haven’s third goal, is the son of the author.