NEW HAVEN — A bounce here, a post there, a big save in a crucial moment.

Come playoff time, those seemingly minor breaks in the game add up to make the difference between playing for a title, and heading home for the spring — some never to play hockey at the high school level again.

Friday evening at Ingalls Rink on the Yale University campus in New Haven, it was top-ranked Northwest Catholic getting the breaks, and taking advantage. The Lions downed No. 4 New Canaan 6-3 in the Division I semifinals and await the winner of No. 2 Ridgefield and No. 6 West Haven to play Monday night for the DI crown.

“Yeah, we had some tough bounces. Yeah, we had some tough luck. But at the end of the day they were the better team tonight,” New Canaan coach Pat Gore said. “From what went on, on the ice tonight the team that deserved it is moving on.”

It took only 18 seconds for the Rams to find themselves in a hole when Anthony Ceolin connected off a feed from Ryan Sherba for the immediate lead.

At the 10:53 mark Ram sophomore Gunnar Granito tallied to tie the game at 1-1, but back-to-back goals from Sherba and Ceolin just 11 seconds apart at the 1:36 and 1:25 marks gave the Lions a 3-1 advantage headed into the first intermission.

“That’s awesome,” NWC coach Donald Melanson said of the early lead. “That’s all determination and effort. I have to give kudos to my seniors who stepped up and played a tenacious game; they really helped change momentum and set the tone of the game right there.”

Four minutes into the second, the Rams had a chance to cut the deficit to one when Tyler Hill broke through the Lion defense and lifted a shot that rang off the crossbar.

Less than a minute later, Sherba connected on his second for NWC, chopping away in front of the net for a rebound goal on a power play.

A minute later, Brooks Gammill responded on a perfect cross-ice feed from Hill during a New Canaan power play to bring the deficit back to 4-2.

Again, the Lions had an answer.

This time it was freshman Brennan Horn, who took a shorthanded breakaway and deflected it off New Canaan goalie Peter Windas’ glove and in at the 5:34 mark.

For the final time, New Canaan got within two on Hill’s rebound goal at 3:19, but with 1:39 left in the period Andrew Hungerford hit Paul Arel with a perfect pass in the left circle and Arel didn’t miss —putting NWC up 6-3 at the second break.

In the two teams’ meeting earlier in the year, it was New Canaan jumping out to an early lead and fending off NWC, holding on for a 5-3 win on Jan 13.

Friday, the roles were reversed.

“Every time they scored, we were able to bounce back,” Melanson said. “We kept them on their heels a little bit and didn’t give them a chance to have sustained momentum.”

New Canaan put 17 shots on net in the third period alone — and outshot NWC 38-19 on the day.

As Gore’s third year at the helm of the Rams comes to an end, he fought back tears looking back at what has been his most successful season leading New Canaan.

“It was very emotional in the locker room after the game, I told them I love them,” said a choked-up Gore. “… you’ll never have that same team again. It’s nice we got to where we got to, it’s nice that we won as much as we did, but it’s just that group of guys.

“They’re a special group. They work hard, there’s a lot of skill, a lot of talent, a lot of senior leadership and I just told them I love them.” @reportedbytheAP



NEW CANAAN 1 2 0—3


Goals: NC—Gunnar Granito, Brooks Gammill, Tyler Hill; NWC—Anthony Ceolin 2, Ryan Sherba 2, Brennan Horn, Paul Arel. Assists: NC—Hill, Gammill; NWC—Sherba 2, Andrew Hungerford. Goalies: NC—Peter Windas (6 saves), Liam Mooney (7); NWC—Cal Skwara (35). Shots: NC—38; NWC—19.