It's always good to gain retribution versus your division rival, but it is even grander to do it when it matters most, as the Indians' boys' ice hockey team learned on March 5.
Following a late-season loss to SCC Division II foe Milford, Guilford grabbed revenge for the first round of the Division II State Tournament in a 5-3 rematch win at DiLungo Rink in East Haven. The Indians jumped out to a quick 2-0 edge before Milford tied it in the second, yet Guilford scored three unanswered goals overlapping the second and third frames to send its fellow Indians packing for the spring.
"It's a great feeling to get the win and be moving on," said sophomore forward Matt Horton. "We knew going in it would be a tough game, as we lost to them earlier this year. We just tried to get the puck deep, pressure them, and never let up. They have some skilled players who can go down the ice in seconds, so we just kept pressure on them."
While sophomore forward Tyler Salkins would give Guilford the lead for good with his tally, Horton notched a pair of lamp lighters in the triumph. Senior forward James Mackey earned two assists on the night for Guilford, which outshot Milford 37-22.
"You just have got to put the puck on net, sometimes you don't have a play, but just keep shooting at the goalie," said Coach Ralph Russo. "We were more aware of how big Milford is with its top players, and they put a clinic on last time we faced them. If we didn't adjust to them, then we would have been in trouble."
After Milford (12-9-0) stopped an early chance in traffic by junior defenseman Brian Donohue, Guilford (12-7-2) went on the power play after a tripping call at 11:12, a man-advantage that would see Guilford spend all of it on offense, but come away empty-handed. Yet it would be a wash, as immediately after, senior forward Ryan Moore beat Milford junior net minder John DePalma (32 saves)at 9:01 on his left to draw first blood in the game following an assist from senior forward Mike Ring.
Guilford struck while the iron was hot, because two minutes later, Horton scored immediately after a faceoff to make it 2-0, as Mackey and senior defenseman Zach Cattazruzza helped on the second mark.
Guilford would stop a Milford advantage before again going on the penalty kill, and it would prove costly when junior center Zach White scored with 32 ticks before intermission to make it a one-goal contest through 15 minutes.
"It took that first goal to let it sink in that we needed to play tighter defense," said Russo. "We got that two-goal lead and we began to play sloppy; we didn't get the puck deep and had guys carrying it too much. We played sloppy up to the point where they grabbed the tying goal."
Freshman goalie Brandon Maio (19 saves) would stop two chances for an equalizer right out of the starting gate in the second, yet White would strike again, marching down the ice on a breakaway for the tying tally at 9:24.
After a series of aggressive chances by the Guilford offense-including almost catching Milford off guard during a line change-Salkins would regain the lead with a rebound shot in front at 3:45 thanks to sophomore forward John Petrick's assist. Similar to the first, Guilford paired up the goal with another due to Horton's second tally with 1:36 left in the middle frame to lead Russo's squad to the locker room with a 4-2 command.
"We knew Milford was a tough team on the breakaway, so we tried to play its first line tough and not let them get away," said Salkins. "After they tied it, we just wanted to dump the puck in, grind it out, force shots on net, and make them tired."
Ring chimed in for insurance immediately in the third, scoring 14 seconds into the period to build a three-goal cushion. Guilford would hold its opponent scoreless until Milford earned a 5-on-3 with 2:38 to go when junior defenseman Ben Lavallee scored, but the Indians in green held on to advance in the bracket.
"Our plan was just to play tight coverage, and if their main scorers go outside, that's good," remarked Russo on covering White and Lavallee. "In playoff hockey, you have to play sound defense against everyone, and we did not do it on the two initial goals they scored. But it was a great job by the guys to adjust after they tied it."