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Senior captain defenseman Donny Funaro and the Indians’ boys’ ice hockey squad scored a big 3-1 win versus the East Haven co-op team at Northford Ice Pavilion last week. North Haven went on to notch an overtime victory against Trumbull to improve to 5-3-1 this season. (Photo by Kelley Fryer/The Courier | Buy This Photo)
Senior captain Jake Wentworth lit the lamp when the North Haven earned its fourth victory of the year by beating the Yellowjackets on Jan. 9. (Photo by Kelley Fryer/The Courier | Buy This Photo)
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The North Haven boys’ ice hockey team needed to put one in the win column when the Indians faced off against the East Haven co-op squad on Jan. 9. The Indians were coming off of two losses and a tie as they entered their home showdown against the scrappy Yellowjackets, making the game of paramount importance for Head Coach Chris Avena’s club. North Haven answered the bell by skating to a 3-1 victory against East Haven-Old Lyme-Old Saybrook-Morgan-Valley Regional-East Hampton at Northford Ice Pavilion. Later in the week, the Indians claimed a 2-1 overtime victory at Trumbull to move to 5-3-1 on the year.
On Jan. 9, North Haven took on the East Haven co-op in a key SCC/SWC Division II tilt. The Yellowjackets grabbed a 1-0 lead when they struck on the power play midway through the first period. With 23 seconds left in the frame, sophomore Jake Hines scored a power-play goal on assists from senior captain Jake Wentworth and freshman Tommy Guidone to tie the game at 1-1.
North Haven started to take control of the game in the second period. Hines popped home his second goal of the night on assists by juniors Eli Brubacher and Aaron Racino to give the Indians a 2-1 lead with 4:42 left in the second.
North Haven’s defense took over in the third period by keeping East Haven contained in its own zone. Brubacher scored an unassisted empty-net goal in the closing minutes to make it 3-1 and put the game away. Junior Andrew Sacco turned aside 12 shots in net to help North Haven get its fourth win of the season.
It was a big victory for North Haven in the team’s quest to secure a berth in the Division II State Tournament this winter. The Indians came up shy of making states in Coach Avena’s first campaign behind the bench last year. Avena and his players are aiming to get back in the state bracket in 2020 and need XXX more wins to get there.
“We certainly feel that we have the talent inside the locker room to get into the State Tournament. When we’re at our best, we have the ability and talent to compete with anyone,” said Avena. “Our seniors want to go out by getting into states and, from a coaching standpoint, you want to get the young kids to understand the dynamic of the tournament, because that’s important for next year and the years after. It’s something that everyone is striving for. Not getting in is not an option.”
North Haven has three seniors on its roster this season, and all three of them are leading the team as its captains. The Indians’ senior captains are Donny Funaro, a defenseman; Alan Tancreti, who was recently moved to defense after previously playing forward; and Jake Wentworth, a forward who’s seen time at both center and wing.
Coach Avena said that his senior captains are doing of solid job of schooling the Indians’ underclass athletes, while bringing their own unique individual skillsets to the ice.
“Donny is a dynamic defenseman who brings strength and skill to his position and has offensive capabilities, as well,” said Avena. “Alan is such a fluid skater, which is why we had him at forward last year. This year, we needed to generate more offense from our back line, so we moved him back there. Jake is a three-year starter who brings calmness to the team, He is used to big pressure games and brings that experience with him to help the younger players.”
The Indians’ roster includes a crop of 13 forwards who are working hard to put the puck in the net. North Haven’s top scoring line features junior center Aaron Racino, junior wing Eli Brubacher, and sophomore wing Jake Hines. Wentworth is centering a line with juniors Will Fiore and Mason Sullivan flanking him on the wings.
Sophomores Nick Tondalo, Mike Anquillare, Ayden Mindlin, and Brian Jooss are also suiting up at forward for the Indians. Freshmen Tommy Guidone, Alex Petersen, and Will Sullivan provide depth at the position.
North Haven has some savvy veterans holding things down on defense this year, along with a few up-and-comers who are lending support along the back line. Funaro, Tancreti, junior Nick Howlett, and junior Justin Marks bring experience to the Indians’ defense. Sophomore Justin Pniewski, sophomore Caden Doheny, freshman Owen Quick, and freshman Joey Taft are the club’s other defensemen.
Sophomore goalie Jared Anderson is back for another season between the pipes. Anderson has been splitting time with junior Andrew Sacco, who transferred from Lyman Hall after helping its co-op team win the Division III state title last winter. Freshman Bryce Petersen is also a goalie for North Haven.
Coach Avena said that there’s a good vibe and a lot of positive energy on the team this year. Avena wants the Indians to go “all-in” in their quest to build the program, a sentiment that was displayed on a T-shirt that his athletes wore throughout the summer. After picking up a couple of pivotal points last week, North Haven is striving to hit its stride on the ice during the second half of the season.
“We want them to go all-in to the system and the team,” said Avena. “It’s the true team mentality where it doesn’t matter which individual is having success. We want everyone to share in that success and keep pushing each other in a healthy, competitive way inside the locker room. That is going to get us where we want to go.”
North Haven finished off its week by posting a 2-1 overtime win versus Trumbull at the Sports Center of Connecticut in Shelton. Trumbull took a 1-0 lead into the third period, but the Indians broke through when Fiore scored a power-play goal to knot the game at 1-1. Late in the third period, North Haven killed off a 5-on-3 power play by Trumbull to send the game to overtime. The Indians dominated play during the extra session and won the game when Racino scored from Tancreti and Mason Sullivan with just 41 seconds left. Sacco made 12 saves for North Haven, which took 34 shots on net.
From the Sidelines
Chris Avena is in his second season as head coach of the North Haven boys’ ice hockey squad. The Indians’ assistant coaches are Mike Tantorski and Alan Tancreti, Sr.
Thus far this year, North Haven has earned wins over Lyman Hall/Haddam-Killingworth/Coginchaug (3-2), New Milford (3-1), Conard (8-2), and East Haven-Old Lyme-Old Saybrook-Morgan-Valley Regional-East Hampton (3-1). The Indians also played to a 2-2 tie with Amity. North Haven has taken losses to Westhill-Stamford (3-2), Farmington Valley (7-3), and West Haven (6-1).
For the rest of the regular season, North Haven has home games against Branford, North Branford, Watertown-Pomperaug, Sheehan, Milford, and Hand on its schedule. The Indians will also be on the road to play Fairfield Warde/Ludlowe, Cheshire, the Eastern CT Eagles, Branford, and Guilford.
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