Two games into the 2019-2020 season, there are already plenty of good things to say about the West Haven hockey team. While most may focus on the offense which has produced 12 goals, the defense and goaltending of Jared Pliszka should not be lost in the shuffle.
With 25 saves from Pliszka, numerous blocked shots, and a pair of goals by defenseman Robbie Forleo, West Haven topped Fairfield Warde/Ludlowe 5-1 Saturday afternoon at the Edward L. Bennett Rink in West Haven.
“We are playing well,” Forleo said. “We have some great defensemen out there, and everyone is doing their jobs. It is not one guy. It is the whole team.”
Along with Forleo, senior Kaden Morgillo also scored twice, while fellow senior Kevin Morarty had one tally.
“Depth is huge for us,” West Haven coach Steve Harris said. “It is big for us to be able to run different units out there.”
West Haven never trailed and took a 1-0 lead after an evenly played opening period. Richie Greene came out of the penalty box and set up a goal by Moriarty in front just 4 minutes, 31 seconds into the contest for a 1-0 advantage.
The Westies (2-0) increased the margin to a pair of goals 1:55 into the second period. With Fairfield Warde/Ludlowe putting on the pressure, Forleo took a pass from Nick Boanno, rushed into the offensive end down the right wing, and neatly lifted a backhander to the short side by goaltender John Grace for a 2-0 lead.
“This team does not give up,” Forleo said. “We are always hungry. We may have a slow start, but we are hungry to get going and play better.”
With West Haven pouring 13 shots on goal in the middle period, it was the special teams which helped build the lead to 3-0.
Down a man, Morgillo blocked a shot and raced in untouched to beat Grace with 6:42 to go in the second period.
“I thought we played a strong game,” Fairfield Warde/Ludlowe coach Carl Larouche said after his team’s season-opening loss. “I was very happy with the team. We made four or five mistakes and West Haven capitalized. Overall, I was very happy with the team.”
Fairfield Warde/Ludlowe cut the deficit to two goals 2:03 after Morgillo’s goal when Rhys Davies picked up a rebound of a Bobby Winter shot to beat Pliszka. The goal by Davies was the only goal allowed on 26 shots.
“He (Pliszka) has come up enormous for us,” Harris said. “I think the kids see it and they play harder in front of him.”
Fairfield Warde/Ludlowe had the shot advantage in the third period, but West Haven had the better opportunities.
After Ryan Bernardi was denied on a breakaway 2:45 into the final period, Morgillo later capitalized by picking up a loose puck in front to score for a 4-1 lead with 10:41 remaining. Morgillo’s second goal of the contest gave the Westies the cushion needed to secure the win.
“That cushion always helps,” Morgillo said. “It takes a lot of the stress off. Everyone delivered today. We have to keep it going.”
Forleo capped the scoring with 7:23 to go when he ripped a laser from the point past Grace for the 5-1 lead.
Grace finished with 24 saves in the loss for Fairfield Warde/Ludlowe.
PLAYERS OF THE GAME
Robbe Forleo and Kaden Morgillo — West Haven seniors each scored twice as the Westies improved to 2-0 on the year.
“We break it down in the locker room. We are now 18 games away (from the state tournament). The kids need to know the importance of every single period. We need to keep improving every period of every game,”