By Andrew Wroblewski
Starting fast is something Michael Porcello, head coach of the Northport/Huntington Ice Hockey Club, emphasizes as his team prepares for a playoff push in the Suffolk County High School Hockey League.
On Sunday, though, Northport/Huntington (13-3) struggled with that as it found itself behind 1-0 less than two minutes into play against Half Hollow Hills (3-11-1).
“We had a couple of guys take a ‘wait-and-see’ approach as far as the start of the game goes,” Porcello said. “You don’t have the opportunity to do that, especially at this level.”
Jake Ashkinos, of Half Hollow Hills, opened the scoring 1:53 into the game as he capitalized on an open net and a puck that landed in front of him. Stealing back some momentum, though, was Northport/Huntington’s Teddy Pupilla who leveled the game at 1-1 with 9:35 left to play.
But Porcello wasn’t yet convinced his team was back in it: “After the first period it didn’t look good for us,” he said.
And he was proven right as Northport/Huntington once again struggled coming out of the break. Several penalties, which Porcello said were “unnecessary,” left the team shorthanded and Half Hollow Hills’ goaltender Ryan Coffey made scoring difficult with some acrobatic saves.
Then Justyn Tesoriero stepped up. Using his aggressiveness and knack for finding the back of the net, Tesoriero gave Northport/Huntington a 2-1 lead with 6:26 remaining in the second period – a lead the team would not relinquish.
“We took a few penalties there [in the second period] and that puts you in a tough position, with a bit of a different challenge,” Porcello said. “But you have to get your head back together and play good hockey.”
Northport/Huntington did just that as it widened its lead in the third period to 5-1 with goals from Tesoriero, Nicholas Warren and Donny Tag. Goaltender Jake Gulemi preserved the lead in net for Northport/Huntington.
With the game in hand, Northport/Huntington now prepares for a matchup against Middle Country (4-10) at The Rinx on Jan 11. The puck is scheduled to drop a 6:20 p.m. and Porcello was hopeful his team will be able to move forward from the mentalities that got it into trouble early against Half Hollow Hills.
“It’s all about starting fast,” he said.
On Jan. 28, Northport/Huntington will play its final game of the season and, likely, advance into the league playoffs, which follow shortly after, Porcello said.