Hamden used its size and strength to control possession of the puck throughout its CIAC Division I boys' hockey first-round game with West Haven Wednesday night.
Somehow though, the Green Dragons found themselves on the short end of a one-goal deficit after one period. West Haven had made the most of its few opportunities.
Hamden changed that in the second. The Green Dragons came out on fire, scoring three straight goals on their way to a 5-3 victory at Lou Astorino Rink.
Junior Nick Amarone scored a hat trick and had one assist for Hamden (13-6-1), which will play Fairfield Prep, a 2-1 overtime winner over Darien Wednesday, in a quarterfinal game Saturday at a site and time to be determined. West Haven finishes 12-7-2.
Hamden started strong scoring 1 minute, 30 seconds in on a rebound put in by Amarone from about 10 feet right in front of West Haven goalie J.P. Withington (38 saves). He was assisted by Mike Lee and Justin MacGregor.
Then West Haven struck twice. First at 3:29, Ryan Hansen put a shot from close in past Hamden goalie Matt Hoff (13 saves) on a rebound of a shot by Alex Scranton. Then Brandon Cangiano took a centering pass from Mike Troiano on a 2-on-1 breakaway and beat Hoff at 5:42 of the first for a 2-1 lead.
"We started great and then we asleep on a faceoff, we kind of lost our men and they quicked us, they got a quick goal," Hamden head coach Bill Veneris said. "And then we had another breakdown. One of my young defenseman just got stripped of the puck, all alone and they went ahead 2-1.
"One thing I don't want to do is give that goalie some confidence because you saw how good he is. But the kids have been here before. They've been around. They battled back and there was never a question. They had a lot of confidence, a lot of focus. They had a great second period. They dominated the offensive side of the puck."
Brandon Dadio got things started by evening it for Hamden in the second period when he scored off a rebounded shot from 10 feet just to the right of goal, assisted by Nick Amarone and Paul Amarone at 1:18.
Nick Amarone was next with a 10-foot slapshot from the left side at 2:45 with an assist from MacGregor.
Hamden finished the second-period scoring when MacGregor swooped in from the left side and left a pass for Jim Burt, who neatly put it past Withington at 7:40. Three goals in about one-half of a period for a 4-2 lead.
West Haven wasn't quite done yet. The third period featured more of Hamden's puck control but no goals until the final minute. With 59 seconds left, the Blue Devils struck suddenly with a breakaway goal from Troiano with an assist from Adam Mink to cut it to 4-3.
But when West Haven pulled its goalie in the last 30 seconds, Nick Amarone iced it with an empty-netter with 14.4 seconds left for the hat trick.
"I'm really proud of our kids," West Haven head coach Joe Morrell said. "Hamden's a big strong team and our kids hung tough the whole game. They did not quit. We had a certain game plan to go in and execute it and we did for the most part. We knew time of possession was going to belong to them, but we had to take advantage of our opportunities."
"First game (of the tournament) is always the toughest one," Veneris said. "We're still alive."