DARIEN -- Fresh off the heels of its exhilarating opening night overtime victory, the New Canaan boys hockey team followed up with another early-season test, playing host to Hamden Saturday night at the Darien Ice Rink.
Win, lose or draw, Hamden knew that it would have a long time to think about the outcome as the Christmas break meant its next game wouldn't happen until Jan. 4.
A 5-2 win for Hamden should ensure that the 2-0 Green Dragons head into that lengthy break with a good taste in their mouths, and the importance of doing so was not lost on the players.
"It was great to go into Christmas break with a win because we don't have another one for two weeks," Hamden's Matt Barnett said. "It would have been disappointing to go into it with a loss."
New Canaan got an early opportunity with the game's first power play, but it was the Green Dragons that would light the scoreboard as Samuel Carignan chipped the puck out of his zone to teammate Anthony Rascati, who took it in stride and scored on the breakaway for the short-handed tally.
Hamden doubled its lead in the second when Barnett also took advantage of a breakaway to make it 2-0.
"We let in a couple breakaway goals, breakdowns defensively," New Canaan's Stephen Mettler said. "Really we just did not play well the first two periods. In the third I thought we stepped it up, but we just couldn't get the puck in the net as much as we wanted to."
Three goals were scored in a span of 58 seconds in a frenzied finish to the second period. Hamden's Christian Ugolik made it 3-0 on the power play with 2:03 to go, New Canaan's Cooper Manchuk got his team on the board with 1:27 remaining and the Green Dragons regained their three-goal cushion with 1:05 left on a goal by Carignan.
"That was a big goal by the first line. We rely on those guys to score every game, so that was a great comeback for them," Barnett said.
New Canaan's bid to erase the three-goal third period deficit was spearheaded by Max Begoon, who made it 4-2 with 11:07 to play.
The Rams had a chance to get closer and created several chances during 1:18 of 5-on-3 action, but Hamden goalie Chris Feldman held down the fort, and Jeremy Routh would later seal the game with an empty-netter.
"We made a couple mistakes early in the game that gave them three goals. We got some quality shots, but if it doesn't go in, it doesn't go in," New Canaan coach Bo Hickey said. "Overall, I thought that was a real good high school hockey game, fast-paced, physical, and their goaltender made some real good saves. I have no qualms about tonight."
"In the third period we had to come out flying and put it away," Hamden's Eric Perez said. "You can see it in the team's eyes. It's different from last year. We knew we had to kill (the 5-on-3) off. We've still got to keep going though."
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HAMDEN 5, NEW CANAAN 2
HAMDEN 1 3 1--5
NEW CANAAN 0 1 1--2
Records: Hamden 2-0; New Canaan 1-1. Goals: H-Anthony Rascati, Matthew Barnett, Christian Ugolik, Samuel Carignan, Jeremy Routh; NC-Cooper Manchuk, Max Begoon. Assists: H-Routh 2, Carignan, John Battick, Barnett, Eric Perez; NC-Peter Reinhardt. Goalies: H-Chris Feldman (27 saves); NC-Mac Wright (22). Shots: H-27; NC-29.