WEST HAVEN — Cheshire’s hockey season has gone as follows: out-shoot, out-chance and, sometimes, out-match opposing teams.
But, eventually, the Rams get outscored.
Tuesday night’s CIAC Division II first-round matchup was no different. No. 7 Amity took down the No. 10 Rams 4-1 at Bennett Rink on Tuesday night to end the Cheshire season despite the Rams outshooting the Spartans 38-29.
“It’s been our Achilles heel all season,” said Cheshire coach Anthony Giusto. “We generate a lot of scoring chances, generate a lot of shots. It seems like the other team gets one good chance to score and they score, and we get four or five and we don’t. That gets frustrating.”
Amity’s goalie, Tyler Cole, had a masterful performance, keeping out 37 of the 38 Rams’ chances and suppressing all momentum that Cheshire tried to build late.
“That gets frustrating,” said Giusto. “When you think you have a good game plan and you execute what you want to do and still don’t see the rewards.”
Amity’s offense got cooking at the nine-minute mark of the first period when a bouncing rebound off of Cheshire goalie Nick Maringola’s pads couldn’t be contained. It kicked right out to Connor Bath, who had enough time to shoot the puck into the gaping net.
“You get a few bounces that don’t go your way early, it’s tough,” said Giusto. “You get down a few goals to a team and then you’re chasing goals, it’s tough. I give them a lot of credit. I told them a month ago I didn’t want to see them again and it proved true.”
Amity’s chances in the period were bountiful, with Maringola doing an admirable job of keeping the Spartans off the board.
Amity’s Jason Csejka carried the first-period momentum into the second period and scored just 32 seconds in. Csejka picked up his own rebound and stuffed the puck right under Maringola’s falling pads on a spin-o-rama shot that was a thing of beauty.
That goal was the only one of the period. Cheshire’s chances began to grow in the period, foreshadowing what might lie ahead.
Amity was hit with a major penalty with 49 seconds remaining the second period, allowing the Rams to gain even more speed going into the game’s final frame.
Cheshire’s Ben O’Connor scored the only goal of the five-minute power play 1:17 into the third period on a beautiful shot from the point that Cole struggled to see through the screening Niklas Vasilijevs and Evan Veivia.
The period that followed O’Connor’s goal was a chippy one.
“When there’s so much on the line, teams are going to play physical and do whatever it takes to win games,” said Giusto. “We obviously want to play under control and not see anybody get hurt, but it’s no surprise. When you get into a playoff atmosphere like that, the intensity level is going to kick up.”
Both teams did not want to give in and were fighting for their seasons. Cheshire continued to raise its shot total while Cole continued to raise his save total. Amity began to sit on its 2-1 lead late in the third with a defensive-minded game, which played into the Cheshire game plan.
“It’s always a battle playing Amity and I don’t think the score indicates the type of game it was,” said Giusto. “It was a little closer than 4-1, but they capitalized on their chances and we didn’t.”
Eventually, Amity’s James Blum scored the third and fourth Spartans’ goals to solidify the win. Amity improved to 13-7-1 and advances to the quarterfinals to take on No. 2 Watertown-Pomperaug (17-3-1) on Friday night at a neutral site.
Cheshire’s season ended at 9-10-2. It was also the conclusion of another set of senior careers. Surely the Rams wish they could’ve planned a better send off for their graduates, but they are still happy with their accomplishments they made this season.
“Every single year there are tears in the locker room, guys are upset,” said senior captain Sawyer Hackett. “Only one team can be happy at the end and, unfortunately, it wasn’t us.”