Boys hockey: Trumbull edged by Branford Hornets

In between a first-period goal by Branford’s Liam Deane and an empty-netter by Jack Manware, the Trumbull High boys hockey team played well in its 2-0 loss to the Hornets last Friday afternoon at The Rinks in Shelton.

"We had our back to the wall coming into this game," said Trumbull coach Greg Maxey who coached The Eagles to a Division II state title back in 2012 with a 5-3 win over Branford. "We needed to play with a sense of desperation in those first 15 minutes and we wound up with three shots on goal. In the long run, that didn't help us."

Trumbull’s fifth straight defeat, a stretch where the locals were limited to seven goals, dropped the Eagles to 5-13. They won’t play in the postseason.

Branford, which came in with a 9-4-1 record and had already secured a spot for the tourney, never really got its game going either, according to coach Jim DeNapoli. The Hornets had six shots on net in the opening period.

Deane took a pass from Spencer Engstrom out near the blue-line to the right of Trumbull goalie Alex Tsymbalyuk's. His high, rising shot glanced off Tsymbalyuk's glove and went off of it and into the net. Deane’s first-career goal came at the 11:06 mark.

Throughout the second and into the third period, the Hornets kept pressure on Tsymbalyuk, but they were never able to put another one past the sophomore.

Tsymbalyuk finished with 26 saves while his counterpart, Greg Lucente only had to make 11 stops.

"Alex made over forty saves in our losses to Stamford-Westhill (5-3) and in the Ridgefield game (3-1)," Maxey said. "That's part of the frustration, because we've played well enough to win and just couldn't finish off games."

Trumbull had a great opportunity to get an equalizer in the third period when the Hornets’ Max Bunton, took a holding penalty with 2:11 to play. The Eagles got three shots on Lucente, two from in close. He stopped them all.

"They had late-game energy and surely put the pressure on us," DiNapoli said. "I think they sensed that they could get the tie and take the game into overtime. I'm just happy that we got out of here with a win.”

Branford put the game out of reach with 15.9 seconds to play when Engstrom won a face-off just outside the Hornets' blue line and got the puck to Manware, who chipped it down the ice and into the vacant cage.

Maxey had pulled his goalie just seconds before in order to get an extra attacker on the ice.

"It's really the story of our season," he said. "I feel sorry for our seniors (there are seven on the roster). One very good sign was  the fact that we had 14 freshman come out this year. We've put some pressure on them to perform and have given most of them along with our other underclassmen some vital roles. But like young players they've made the little mistakes which have turned game around in favor of our opponents."