The Branford boys’ ice hockey squad’s season came to an abrupt end in the quarterfinals of the Division II State Tournament when Fairfield Warde/Ludlowe scored the game-winning goal on a deflection off a shot from the blue line seven minutes into double overtime to prevail 4-3.
The 5th-seeded Hornets, who led the game 3-1 in the second period, finished at 13-8-2. No. 13 seed Fairfield Warde/Ludlowe improved to 12-10 and advanced to a semifinal duel against North Branford. Fairfield had 46 shots on goal in comparison to 40 for Branford, which received 42 saves from AJ Brink at West Haven’s Bennett Rink. The teams had split their two regular season meetings with Branford winning the latter one in overtime.
“This was a superb game and both teams played extremely well. Fairfield is one of the top teams in Division II and they proved it,” said Coach Adolph Brink, who was previously Fairfield Warde/Ludlowe’s head coach.
Branford took a 1-0 lead 3:18 into the game when Cooper Bunton scored from Tyler Criscuolo. Fairfield tied it a minute later before Tony Pascale put one home to give the Hornets a 2-1 lead at the first intermission. Criscuolo scored early in the second period, yet Fairfield used a power-play goal to make it 3-2 entering the third, also netting that score off a deflection. Fairfield then tied game with 6:18 to play in regulation.
The first overtime featured the Hornets killing a power play, although they were also unable to convert on a 2-on-0 breakaway. That set up a second OT which was skated 4-on-4 and saw Fairfield deflect home the game-winning score.
Said Brink: “It’s a lousy way for our seniors’ seasons to end, but goals like that happen in a game like this and the game is a lesson for our underclassmen to build on for next year.”
Previously in the first round, Branford defeated Fermi-Enfield-East Granby-Stafford 4-0 on March 5 at Northford Ice Pavilion.
The Hornets scored two goals in the first period and two in the third. Tyler Hackett netted the game’s first goal from Rob Klouda at the 8:06 mark of the opening period, followed by Criscuolo’s tally from Pascale and Jordan Criscuolo at 9:36. Following a scoreless second period that saw Branford kill off a 5-on-3 power play, the Hornets sealed it in the third when Hackett scored a shorthanded goal at 1:31, after which Bunton scored at the 9:48 mark. Brink made 24 saves for the Hornets.