Article #4 10.17.08
Midget Green Team—Rhode Island Saints Tournament—Warwick, Rhode Island
Hamden’s Midget Green Team won its first three games at the Rhode Island Saints Tournament this past weekend. The team got off to a fast start winning at Newport’s St. George’s School Rink 6-5. Hamden jumped out to a 3-0 lead on a bouncing puck goal by Dan Cusano and a great, short-handed hustle goal by PJ Vakos.
Vakos had a wonderful tournament and started it by stealing the puck from the goalie after checking a defenseman off the puck and sliding the rubber under the legs of the shell shocked Bridgewater Bandits net minder.
Nick Castaldi, an old fashioned stay at home defenseman, was playing his typical solid game as was Anthony Avitable in net. Scotty Walsh had a great scoring chance coming out of the penalty box but was thwarted by the Crites goalie. Mike Pierne put Hamden up 3-0 on a power play goal on a fine feed by Jimmy Burt from behind the net. Vakos also had an assist on the play.
The second period—the teams played two twenty-two minute periods—was not kind to the Green Dragons. Karl Zukufnt was angrily greeted in net by the team from Western Mass. They stormed the Hamden net minder and soon the team found itself down 4-3 on the banks of beautiful Newport. Walsh brought the team back to even with a fine hustle goal banging it in the net before the goalie could cover the puck.
Burt and CJ Carignan had assists on Walsh’s goal. Carignan, the fine skating sophomore then put Hamden in front on a rifle shot that singed the twines. Matt Morgan, the rugged senior winger who has been playing his best hockey got the assist. Morgan, who broke his shoulder just a year ago suffered a freak accident to the same shoulder when he caught an edge at Power Skating almost a year to the day from his prior injury and broke the collar bone of the same shoulder. He will be lost for a month.
Hamden was getting back its territorial edge and Zukufnt settled down and made several solid saves as he has over the past several weeks. Dan Wheeler, AJ Gemmel and RJ Ugolik were playing solid defense. Steven Sorrentino crunched a forward deep in the corner and got the puck up to Walsh with about five minutes to play. Walsh made a fine pass to Cusano who beat two defenders and got the puck to the hard charging Burt. The hard playing winger froze the goalie and tucked a pretty back handed shot into the net for a 6-4 Hamden lead.
Hamden won the game 6-5 but not before Ugolik made a fine block of a rocket shot with under a minute to play.
Saturday Night’s game followed the victory in Newport but was played in a much less desirable arena. And that is the understatement of the century. Hamden was playing the big, hard hitting defending National AAA Champions Rhode Island Saints team. And the host team came out hitting.
Avitable was on his game stopping everything they threw at him. The only thing the Hamden net minder couldn’t help the team with were the referees who were so blatantly homies that two Hamden dads decided to take early exits from the arena after voicing their opinions on the stench caused by the one-sided calls.
Joey Coughlin, Mike Berezecky, Dave Findley and Pat McGovern were meeting fire with fire up front as the hitting was ferocious. Carignan got a burr up his side after a contentious face off and smacked a flying puck out of mid-air to put Hamden up 1-0. Soon after Coughlin and McGovern set up Berezecky who wristed a bullet into the net over the goalie’s right shoulder for a 2-0 lead.
Berezecky was fearless in taking on the opponents larger defensemen in the corner and it was poetic justice to see him rewarded with a goal as he had taken some hard, borderline pops by Andre the Giant-like defenders as the zebras apparently swallowed their whistles while watching. Phantom of the Opera was prettier than the Rhode Island Sports Arena and more phantoms calls saw the two dads exit and more could have followed.
This arena to nowhere was dingy, dark and flat out Halloween scary. It is a Drive-By Nightmare that one buzzes by on Route 146 and gets back to after a 20 mile round trip as this highway to nowhere has as many turnarounds on it as there are Hallie Berry look-a-likes. Trust me; going from St. George’s Rink Saturday morning to this dump is like going from one extreme to the other. Words pale to describe its horrors.
Avitable finally gave one up despite his fine play and that of his defenseman including Johnny Teulings who had a wonderful tournament. Pierne got it right back thirty seconds later on a hard working unassisted goal to make it 3-1. Pierne’s goal shocked the men in striped shirts so much that they actually put Hamden on the Power Play.
The Power Play unit of Pierne and Cusano on defense and Carignan, Vakos and Burt up front blended well all weekend. Cusano fed the puck to Carignan who let go with a wicked slap shot from the left circle that Burt deflected into the net to give the visitors another goal and a hard fought 4-2 victory.
Hamden then won the game of the weekend against the North Shore Select All Stars. The PJ Vakos Show came center stage as the feisty winger just didn’t stop moving or talking all game long. Hamden got down 2-0 to this team but kept coming.
Carignan and Walsh came down two on oh at one point and decided it was best to take a three point shot wristing the puck ten feet in the air and over the goalie and everyone else! Carignan and Burt hooked up again on the Power Play to feed the ever present Vakos who scored to make it a 2-1 game with eighteen minutes left to play.
McGovern and Berezecky then teamed up with one of the prettiest plays of the weekend. McGovern took the face off in the left, offensive circle. He drew the puck back to Berezecky and then proceeded towards the net through a maze of bodies. His teammate deftly knocked a pass off the blade of his stick between McGovern’s legs and onto his stick. The quick hands of the senior center man then scored placing the puck between the goal minders legs.
Neither the face off draw to Berezecky nor his pass back to McGovern traveled more than six inches. The ice level witnesses were treated to some fine play between these two gifted players as well as others on the team.
Zukufnt was making fine plays in net as Mark Fracasso was hitting everything in sight. The feisty winger fed Pierne on a fierce rush and the senior winger almost put Hamden ahead with nine minutes to go. Then with just over three minutes to play the man of the day, PJ Vakos, got Hamden a Power Play goal on fine feeds from Pierne and Wheeler to put Hamden up 3-2. A fine save by Zukufnt with just twenty seconds to play sealed Hamden’s win.
Hamden then lost to the Bridgewater Bandits 4-1. Walsh got Hamden’s only goal as the feisty winger just keeps on producing each and every game. He was assisted by Morgan and Sorrentino. This game was marred by the punk defenseman on the opponents deciding to hit stationary targets seeing that he couldn’t hit anyone during the game.
There were twenty seconds left and a stoppage of play when this goon decided to cross check an unsuspecting Pierne in the back of his head and sucker punch Vakos who was simply standing in front of him. The actions of this punk were totally uncalled for and diminished his team’s fine efforts during an otherwise fine hockey game.
Hamden then played the Saints again in the semi-final game. The Saints scored early as they caught Avitable out of the net to go up 1-0. They then went up 2-0 before Hamden tightened up. Hamden soon found itself down two men and the penalty killers and Avitable were unreal.
Pierne, Berezecky and Burt took turns short handed while Teulings and Wheeler manned the defense. Wheeler and Teulings looked like Roman Centurions guarding the Emperor as they blocked shot after shot and pass after pass. These two defensemen kept the Dragons in the game at a crucial time and while the other penalty killers and goalie were outstanding these two players were simply geniuses.
Vakos then scored again to make it a one goal game on assists from the two Roman Centurions. Vakos hit the post late and several Hamden players came close but the team lost 2-1 in a great, hard hitting, fast paced hockey game that was a joy to watch.
The team is looking better than it did early in the season and that bodes well for the high school. Vakos let the team with four goals and one assists during the tournament. Other leading scores were Jimmy Burt (2G 3A), Dan Cusano (1G 3A), CJ Carignan (2G 2A), Mike Pierne (2G 1A), Scotty Walsh (2G1A),Pat McGovern and Mike Berezecky (1G1A each), Matt Morgan and Dan Wheeler (2A each) and one assist each by Joe Coughlin, Steven Sorrentino and Johnny Teulings.
Hamden is coach by Anthony Carangelo, Dan Vigliotti and Jim Miller.