The North Haven boys’ ice hockey squad struggled out of the gates by losing its first three games this season and so the Indians desperately needed to get that initial victory out of the way. Head Coach Mike Silengo’s club put win No. 1 in the books by skating to a 3-0 shutout over the Lyman Hall/Haddam-Killingworth/Coginchaug co-op squad at Northford Ice Pavilion on Dec. 30.
“It was huge. It was just what we needed after playing down a few games,” Coach Silengo said. “We went over this particular game-plan with them for two days and everybody followed the blueprint. They played hard and the result was a victory.”
The Indians, who are 1-4, scored one goal in all three periods on their way shutting out the Trojans. Junior wing Alex Cianci netted North Haven’s first goal on an assist from sophomore wing Dom Biondi with 8:29 left in the opening period. The Indians maintained their one-goal advantage throughout the second period and then made it 2-0 when Cianci scored an unassisted goal with 59 seconds to play in the frame. Just 1:48 into the final frame, senior captain Mike Gambardella lit the lamp for a 3-0 margin that held up as the final. North Haven outshot the opposition 34-20 with senior goalie John Reilly stopping all 20 shots for the shutout.
“Our goaltending was great, our defense did a great job of quickly moving the puck up to our wings, and our wings got the pick in deep and never let them out of our zone,” said Silengo. “We kept the pressure on with physical play, smart play, and took plenty of shots with a few real nice goals. We just have to figure out how to maintain that energy for the rest of the year.”
Silengo said that it’s crucial for his team to give “100-percent effort 100 percent of the time,” and added that his three captains are setting a great example for the underclassmen to follow. North Haven’s lone senior captain is Gambardella, who centers the first line with Cianci and Biondi. The Indians also feature two junior captains in center Jamie Montesi and wing CJ Kenny, who play on the second line with junior winger Sam Pethick. North Haven’s third line features junior center Corey Reilly, junior wing Kyle Spring, and freshman wing Jake Wentworth.
“The captains are doing a great job of keeping everything together,” Coach Silengo said. “They’ve done a great job since they took over last year of getting the kids together to play in the spring, summer, and fall and also with the off-ice stuff. This is a close-knit team, they get along good, and that’s because of the three captains.”
Silengo said that strong defensive play has been a bright spot for his squad this far this season and a lot of that stems from the success of a few varsity newcomers. The Indians have been rotating in six defenseman, who are senior Conor Quinn, sophomores Sean Quinn and Simon Brubacher, plus freshmen Alan Tancreti, Andrew Carmody, and Donny Funaro. Reilly has started four of the team’s five games in net.
“I can certainly tell you that [the young defensemen] have been well coached through the youth hockey ranks and they got thrown right into the fire with only one returning defenseman from last year. They’ve handled the job and the defense has really been the backbone of our team so far. Every one of them has been really steady,” said Silengo. “Reilly has also been steady and is playing great. He has a lot pressure on him because our offense isn’t really doing the job right now, so he knows that any cheap goal will make it tough for us to come back, but he’s responded and has done the job.”
As North Haven works its way into the heart of the season, Coach Silengo knows that returning to the playoffs is a goal for his team, but he also knows that the Indians can’t afford to relent for even a single period if they plan on getting enough points to qualify for postseason play.
“I would love to see us make the playoffs, but we have a lot of work before we get there. We need seven more wins to make the playoffs and, if you look at our schedule, nothing is going to be easy,” he said. “We’ll have to win every period of every game, whatever style it is. If it’s physical, we’ll beat a team that way and, if not, we’ll figure out a way to win each and every period. Once we get a few wins, hopefully, it will steamroll.”
From the Sidelines
North Haven’s roster for the 2016-’17 season is comprised of senior captain Mike Gambardella, fellow seniors Conor Quinn, Brandon DelVasto, CJ DeBridgita, and John Reilly; junior captains CJ Kenny and Jamie Montesi, fellow juniors Jeremy Hickcox, Kyle Spring, Alex Cianci, Sam Pethick, Corey Reilly, and Ryan Millea; sophomores Sean Quinn, Dom Biondi, Simon Brubacher, David DeGrand, Andrew Johnson, and Carter Longley, plus freshmen Andrew Carmody, Donny Funaro, Alan Tancreti, and Jake Wentworth.
This is Mike Silengo’s third season as North Haven’s head coach. Silengo is assisted by his brother Bill Silengo, along with Anthony DeMatteis, Marty Harrigan, and statistician Greg Barbiero.
A few days after beating Lyman Hall/Haddam-Killingworth/Coginchaug, the Indians took a 6-2 home loss to Hamden on Jan. 4. Jake Wentworth scored an unassisted goal, CJ Kenny scored an unassisted goal from Mike Gambardella and Sam Pethick, and John Reilly made 31 saves for North Haven.