The Branford boys’ hockey team under coach Jim DiNapoli just passed the halfway point of their season. The team still has the goal of qualifying for both the SCC and CIAC end of season tournaments despite losing its last two games.
The club as of this game stands at 6-4-1.
The Hornets started out with three wins and a tie before losing their first game 4-2 to Guilford on Jan. 12. They defeated Glastonbury 2-0, tied Staples 3-3, and beat North Haven 7-2, and Lyman Hall-HK-Coginchaug 6-5 in OT to kickoff the season. The other wins were against Amity 4-2 and Daniel Hand 6-2.
This past week the Hornets played two good opponents, the North Branford Thunderbirds, whose record is 10-3, and the Cheshire Rams, who have a 8-6-1 record. They lost both games by scores of 6-3 and 4-1 respectively.
“We’ve been up and down so far this year,” said Dinapoli. “We had a nice start, but lost to some good teams with winning records along the way.” In addition to North Branford and Cheshire the Hornets lost to the Watertown-Pomperaug co-op team that’s currently sporting a 11-1-1 record. Here Coach Jim DiNapoli (left) and assistant Mike Landino watch the action.
In the North Branford game covered by the Eagle last Saturday, the teams played to a scoreless first period before North Branford broke loose in the second period with a two quick goals within a minute of each other. Blake Kustra’s (back left) shot gets by John Lovelace for Branford’s last goal. Here Blake Kustra’s (back left) shot gets by John Lovelace for Branford’s last goal.
And here Co-captain Will Benni (24) turns back to get the puck before North Branford’s Brendan Stoner (9) gets to it.
There was a big crowd at the game between the neighboring towns.
Branford countered with a goal by Theo Kirby to make it 2-1, but the T Birds hit for two more around one by the Hornets’ Spencer Engstrom, and North Branford took a 4-2 lead into the final period.
There was hot action in front of the North Branford net as David Engstrom (14) and Blake Kustra (18) watch John Lovelace stop a shot.
Branford continued to make it close in the third period when Blake Kustra scored at 7:55 on an assist from Max Manware to make it 4-3, but once again the T Birds matched it in just over a minute on freshman Mark Pedersen’s third goal for a hat trick and a 5-3 lead. Sean McKee iced the game with the final goal at 1:14 and the T Birds prevailed 6-3 Here Kustra has his shot stopped by North Branford goalie John Lovelace.
And here Jack Manwear (11) and Zack Jones (17) watch the puck sail over the head of T Birds goalie John Lovelace.
The Hornets started this week with an impressive 3-0 shutout against Masuk of Monroe last night at the Northford Ice Pavilion to improve to 7-4-1. The next game is Wednesday at Northford against the New Fairfield-Immaculate Co-op team at 8:30 p.m.