Brendan Strobel Mr. Clutch
Once he locks it in his mind, he rarely forgets.
That has become a mantra for Trumbull High hockey forward Brendan Strobel, whose overtime goal, his second of the game, gave the Eagles a 4-3 overtime victory over Branford Monday afternoon in the second game of the second annual New Year’s Eve High School Hockey Face-off doubleheader at Bridgeport’s Webster Bank Arena.
Swooping in with 2:26 to play in the eight-minute sudden-victory session, Strobel cut across Branford goaltender Alessandro Sarno’s plane, then beat him with a back-hand shot into the upper left-hand corner of the net.
“I looked up and saw that I had an open lane to the net,” Strobel said. “I remembered on my first goal (at 7:10 of the opening period) that I had beaten him on a back-hander. So, I figured, maybe I might be able to do it again.”
It brought to an end the battle between the rivals, who played twice a year ago.
Trumbull came back from a 5-1 deficit to beat the Hornets 7-6, also in overtime in the 2011 Face-off, before going on to defeat Branford, 5-3, for the Division II state title in March at Yale University’s Ingalls Rink.
Trumbull’s win was its first of the season after three losses.
“It’s just nice to get our first win,” Trumbull coach Greg Maxey said. “We’ve had an up-and-down season, just like this game today. We’re very young. We only have four players who had any significant amount of playing time last year.”
One of them was goalie Matt Paolini, who had 31 saves, including six in the overtime when Branford put together an assortment of odd-man rushes. Paolini stood his ground on every one.
Branford (2-2) had taken a 1-0 first-period lead when Jack Murray, a sophomore, tipped in a Rob Petrillo shot from the point at 6:32.
Trumbull countered on Strobel’s first goal after he received a breakout pass from Sean Gallagher.
Sophomore Tyler Hackett, a 49-point producer as a freshman, gave the Hornets a 2-1 lead at 5:23 of the second period.
But Sam Watson scored for Trumbull, at 7:33, to draw his team even.
It stayed that way until 11:34, when Petrillo drilled home a slapshot from the point, allowing Branford to take a 3-2 edge into the final 15 minutes.
Matt Sorosky, on assists from Nate Walker and A.J. DiMasi, tied it at 4:42 of the third and, despite several breakaways, Branford was unable to get the game-winner.
Paolini came up with big saves in the extra period.
“No one’s a fan of an overtime game,” said Paolini, who was in goal for last March’s championship contest. “You just have to go out there and do what you can.”
He made six stops before Strobel put an end to the game.
“They got it on the stick of arguably, their best player and he did his job,” Branford coach Adolph Brink said. “It was a nice goal for them in a nice come-back win.
“When you go into an overtime situation, it becomes a wide-open game. We both had our opportunities. This type of game can go either way.”
Branford outshot Trumbull, 34-24. Sarno made 20 saves for the Hornets. Each team drew three minor penalties and neither squad had a power-play goal.
“We’re entering probably our toughest five-game stretch (which began on Wednesday night with a game against New Milford) of the season,” Maxey said.
“It will be crucial how well we do. I saw some good things today. Hopefully, we can build on this win.”