End of an Era
Long-time coach Joe Morrell steps down
By MIKE MADERA
(June 25, 2019) - For close to three decades, it has always been hockey first for long-time West Haven coach Joe Morrell. That is about to change.
With an opportunity to go back to school and pursue added career opportunities, Morrell, 55, informed his team he has decided to step down from coaching the Westies effective immediately.
“I have the opportunity to go back to school,” Morrell said. “For a lot of my coaching career, it has been West Haven hockey first. I have always preached to the kids, family, school, hockey. It has not always been that way for me or my family. I have been doing this for 28 years, 21 as a head coach. I have spent a lot of time away from home. My wife (Jackie) has always been 100 percent behind me. I could not have asked for a better partner in life. My kids (Jocey and Jolie), all they know is their father coaches West Haven hockey. I am known as the coach of West Haven hockey and I love that. West Haven hockey has been a big part of my life.”
West Haven coach Joe Morrell (l.) with Niko Kyle (r.). Photo courtesy of Todd Dandelske.
A physical education teacher at West Haven High and also the head coach of the school’s softball team, Morrell is looking to the future as he pursues his sixth year degree in administration and leadership. With an opportunity to broaden his career, Morrell is taking the step forward.
“It is just something that I feel I have to do,” Morrell said. “I want to be able to give all my effort to going back to school. I have to be fully committed. That’s the way I am.”
Said superintendent of schools Neil C. Cavallaro, “Joe is old school West Haven hockey. One of the things about Joe is how he takes the game of hockey, and the tradition and history of West Haven hockey. That is a big part of his coaching philosophy. The kids understand what it means to wear the West Haven High School jersey. Joe is really passionate about West Haven hockey and he gets that message to the kids.
“I think above all else, Joe is a teacher. He is a consummate professional, whether it is coaching or teaching physical education, or scheduling. He gets involved at the Bennett Rink, and he is involved with West Haven Youth Hockey. Joe is all about promoting the kids. He gives his time and effort to the community.”
West Haven coach Joe Morrell (r.).
In his 21 years at the helm of the Westies, Morrell qualified for the state tournament in 20 of those campaigns, only missing the postseason during the 2005-2006 season. Morrell compiled a regular season record of 223-170-23 and overall mark of 234-190-23.
Said West Haven athletic director Jon Capone, “Words can't describe what West Haven hockey meant to Joe. It's been a huge part of his life both as a player and a coach. He has so much respect for this program and he instilled that in all his players. I can't thank him enough for all his hard work and dedication to the West Haven High School hockey program.”
While Morrell looks ahead, there are plenty of fond memories to look back on, including his 234 career wins in his storied career at West Haven. The long-time coach came to the Westies after one year as an assistant at Guilford and six years of being an assistant coach across town at Notre Dame.
“I just want to thank all who supported me, including Neil Cavallaro, Jon Capone, and (the late) Pam Gardner, who was a huge supporter of me,” Morrell said. “I know she would be happy with my decision. The West Haven High School Penalty Box Club played a huge role in the program, and I would like to thank all the past and present members for doing what they do every year.”
Known for getting the best out of all his teams, Morrell was admired for having his teams ready to go, especially against teams which drew from more than one town.
With the hockey numbers down, Morrell and his staff, which also included long-time assistants Steve McCarty, Gene Pacapelli, John Ascenzia, Jim Lafo, and Eric Dillner, always seemed to get the best out of the team. Morrell could also turn to alumni such as Jim Perno to make sure his team was prepared in every aspect as well.
The Westies never won that elusive state title under Morrell, but reached the semifinals four times under his guidance, the latest time coming during the 2016-2017 season when the Westies were eliminated at Ingalls Rink in the semifinals by Ridgefield. That year saw the Westies upset third-seeded Xavier in the tournament.
“I am happy with the amount pf times we made the tournament, but that one thing, a state championship, eluded us,” Morrell said. “It still bothers me. A lot of coaches were rooting for us because they knew how much that meant to me. That was the one thing I wish I could have gotten for this program.”
Xavier would prove to be a thorn in the side of the Westies as the two teams squared off in the postseason in six of the last seven years, with the Falcons coming out on top in five of those contests, including the last two seasons.
That 2016-2017 team embodied everything Morrell and his staff preached with solid goaltending and defense, and scoring from numerous players. The bottom line always came back to hard work.
“I always told the kids it would come down to hard work,” Morrell said. “We may not have been as talented as some teams, but we were going to outwork them. I think for the most part, we did that. I think the team really understood what it took to play at West Haven. Our teams outworked other teams to be successful.”
Morrell and his teams suffered heartbreak twice in a span of three years going back to the 2001-2002 and 2003-2004 seasons as the Westies fell in overtime of the semifinals of the state tournament in both seasons.
Despite an epic comeback in the final minutes or regulation as the second seed, West Haven lost to New Canaan in 2001-2002, before falling in a gut-wrenching 4-3 double overtime contest to second-seeded Fairfield Prep in 2003-2004. The Jesuits would go on to defeat Notre Dame-West Haven for the state title.
“I enjoyed winning,” Morrell said. “You obviously want to win as much as you can and you don’t want the kids to be afraid of losing. In the quarterfinal and semifinal games, everything was this close. It was the bounce of a puck. Against Ridgefield a few years back, we were tied going into the third period. We just had to get that bounce and we didn’t get it. In the postseason, it is true when they say it is a game of inches.”
Over the last 10 seasons, Morrell’s teams had three golden opportunities to take home the program’s first state title since 1994.
The biggest opportunity never panned out during the 2009-2010 campaign as the Westies entered the postseason as the top seed with a 17-3 record, but were upset in the first round by Darien. Two years later, West Haven fell to Notre Dame-West Haven in the semifinals, before suffering the same fate against Ridgefield during the 2016-2017 season.
Morrell will always be known for his softer side when dealing with players and tough situations. He will also be known for how serious he took practices.
“My wife would always get mad at me because I always said no one does it like Joe Morrell and I had the same philosophy,” Pacapelli said. “His way was the right way and no one else came close as far as I was concerned. He put so much into everything he did, whether it was practice with a 5-year-old or a high school game. He gave it his all no matter what. It was just his positivity in any situation. He was upbeat about everything. He could look at anything and look at the bright side of that situation. He just had a great attitude.”
“Practice is what I loved,” Morrell said. “Practice was like gold to me. One of the best things to me was seeing all the alumni who came back to help. I knew how much this program meant to them. I will miss that a great deal. I love being the coach of West Haven.”
The search to replace the long-time coach will begin immediately. Cavallaro feels the job is an attractive one with the history of the program and a new school set to be in place.“I believe with all my heart, this is a very attractive job,” Cavallaro said. “We will start today to begin that process.”
Harris at the Helm
Former Hamden Hall coach tabbed to lead Westies
By MIKE MADERA
(July 19, 2019) - The list of head coaches for the West Haven hockey program is few. Steve Harris can now consider himself one of a handful in the storied program’s history.
With the expected approval from the Board of Education this Monday evening, Harris will join a list which includes Edward L. Bennett, Art Crouse, Art Delucia, Gordie Smith and most recently, Joe Morrell, who stepped down after 21 years at the helm.
“It is absolutely amazing,” Harris said. “I have been part of the West Haven Youth Hockey program where I started and to see all those guys and what they have done is amazing. I am right back where I started. It is an absolute honor to be the head coach at West Haven. I have very big shoes to fill with Joe Morrell. He was amazing with the kids and he was one of my coaches along with Mike Violano when I was at Notre Dame. He knew how to get the most out of his players.”
Said superintendent of schools Neil C. Cavallaro, “Steve is really committed to hockey. He has worked extremely hard to get to this point. He has a strong passion for hockey and he has worked many years to develop his coaching skills.
“I watched him turn Hamden Hall around. He is going to take the time and work hard to make the program better. We feel like we got the right guy. He coached my son (Connor) and I watched him in action. He is committed. He is good to the kids. He has prepared himself for this point. He has coached two or three teams in a season. His goal was to become a better hockey coach.”
Harris has an impressive youth hockey and prep school coaching resume, most notably coaching at Hamden Hall for eight years, with seven of those years as head coach. Harris made an immediate impact on the program of the Hornets as he was winless in his first year at the helm, but followed with a semifinal appearance one year later.
“Steve brings a great deal of experience coaching at all levels to our program,” West Haven athletic director Jon Capone said. “He has a tremendous amount of respect for the history of our program. My job is to assist him in the transition, and I’m excited to begin working with him.”
Harris has also been impressive at the youth hockey levels where he took the Yale U14/U15 Tier 3 squad to the New England quarterfinal game last season and took the Ct. Oilers to the EJEPL finals and Atlantic Youth Hockey League quarterfinals.
“He is the consummate professional,” Yale Youth Hockey President Charlie Andriole said. “He is a very diligent teacher of the game of hockey. He always handles himself with the calmest of demeanor. That is not to say he doesn’t expect good things from his players He does it in a very calm way, which I find rare. He will be a great fit for West Haven. He is a great teacher with expansive knowledge. He coached all three of my kids so I know his methodologies and his philosophies.”
Said Harris, “Coaching the different age groups has really helped. You get to see how the kids develop, and then to watch them go from youth hockey to high school, you see the older kids help mold the younger kids. It is a big part of the way everyone transforms. You get to see the mindset of the specific age groups.”
Harris expanded his coaching last year, serving as the advance scout and skills instructor at Notre Dame – West Haven under then first year coach Larry Vieira.
“In my opinion, he is one of the most outstanding young coaches in the area,” Vieira said of Harris. “He has a presence about him. The kids respond when he walks in the room. His hockey knowledge is off the charts. He has a little bit of an edge to him. He has that “it” factor. That is an excellent hire. We will miss him here.”
Harris is no stranger to high school hockey in the area as he starred at cross-town Notre Dame from 1996 – 1999, where he was known for his sharp shot and nose to come up with the big goals. Harris needed just three years to join the 100-point club for the Green Knights and took home a state championship as a sophomore.
“I grew up in West Haven and was a West Haven kid,” Harris said. “I went to Notre Dame for four years, then college, but came right back to volunteer in the West Haven Youth Hockey. I was never that far removed from West Haven.”
The new West Haven coach went on to play prep school at the Gunnery, before attending Johnson and Wales University.
With the Westies having qualified for the postseason 20 of the past 21 years, Harris has one goal in mind and that is to bring a state title back to West Haven for the first time since 1994.
“My message is an easy one and that is let’s win a state championship,” Harris said. “I really think with seeing them play last year and what they did, and with the returning players and group coming in, if we follow the system and work hard, it is an attainable goal. We first want to get to the SCC t tournament and win that, but the ultimate goal for everyone is to win a state championship. We need to bring a banner back to the Bennett Rink.
“I am not a yeller or screamer. I like to give the kids the benefit of the doubt. I like to give them opportunities, but if I tell them once, I don’t want to see it done again. Respect is earned, not given. That has worked out for me. “
Harris will name his assistants shortly, with long-time assistant coach Jim Lafo expected to be retained.
“I am not going to change tradition here,” Harris said. “There is plenty of tradition at West Haven. I am looking to keep the alumni involved. I’m excited to be here.”
Harris, who has an 18-month old daughter with his wife Michelle, works for the city of Milford.
Harris and Westies open with 7-0 victory
By MIKE MADERA
(December 18, 2019) - The opening game of the Steve Harris era did not start as fluidly as Harris would have liked. But, as the old saying goes, it is not how you start, but how you finish.
Harris had to be pleased with the finish as West Haven scored three goals in the second period and four more in the third to defeat Guilford 7-0 in the season opener at the Edward L. Bennett Rink in West Haven Wednesday evening.
“We started off a little slower than what I would have liked,” Harris said after his first victory as West Haven’s coach. “We had a few good weeks of practice leading up to tonight. We regrouped after the first period, made some corrections and they played much better in the second and third.”
D.J. Carfora led the Westies with two goals and one assist, Nico Bruneau added one goal and two assists, and Ben Carfora and Nick Boanno each finished with a goal and an assist.
“It felt great,” Harris said of both the team’s and his initial win of the year. “I was a little nervous, first game as the head coach, and it was at home. No better way to start my career than with a win at home. We still have a lot of work to do and we will be back at it tomorrow at practice.”
Not to be lost in the shuffle was the stellar play of the West Haven defense and the goaltending of Jared Pliszka, who earned his first career shutout with 32 saves.
West Haven goaltender Jared Pliszka makes one of his 32 saves against Guilford, December 18, 2019. Photo courtesy of Todd Dandelske.
“The defense played well,” Harris said. “We were able to run a bunch of players and work on different combinations. Jared (Pliszka) played great. It was nice to hear that my first win was also Jared’s first career shutout. The team played well in front of him and he made some huge saves at the end to preserve the shutout.”
After a scoreless first period, West Haven took control of the contest with three goals in the middle period.
Richie Greene got things started 1:53 in off an assist from Kaden Morgillo. Bruneau increased the lead to 2-0 off assists from Colin Hines and D.J. Carfora with 6:10 left in the period, before D.J. Carfora’s first of the game, off assists from Bruneau and Ben Carfora, with under five minutes remaining gave the Westies a 3-goal lead.
West Haven put the game away for good in the third. Just 1:09 in, Ben Carfora scored off an assist from Bruneau, Boanno made it 5-0 at the 9:26 mark, and Kevin Moriarty scored off an assist from Sean Dupre with 3:10 remaining for a 6-0 lead.D.J. Carfora finished a stellar night for the Carfora brothers, scoring off an assist from Boanno with 25 seconds to go.
Two in a Row
Forleo, Morgillo lead Westies
By MIKE MADERA
(December 21, 2019) - Two games into the 2019-2020 season, there are already plenty of good things to say about the West Haven hockey team. While most may focus on the offense which has produced 12 goals, the defense and goaltending of Jared Pliszka should not be lost in the shuffle.
With 25 saves from Pliszka, numerous blocked shots, and a pair of goals by defenseman Robbie Forleo, West Haven topped Fairfield Warde/Ludlowe 5-1 Saturday afternoon at the Edward L. Bennett Rink in West Haven.
“We are playing well,” Forleo said. “We have some great defensemen out there, and everyone is doing their jobs. It is not one guy. It is the whole team.”
Along with Forleo, senior Kaden Morgillo also scored twice, while fellow senior Kevin Morarty had one tally.
“Depth is huge for us,” West Haven coach Steve Harris said. “It is big for us to be able to run different units out there.”
West Haven never trailed in the contest and took a 1-0 lead after an evenly played opening period. Richie Greene came out of the penalty box and set up a goal by Moriarty in front just 4 minutes, 31 seconds into the contest for a 1-0 advantage.
The Westies (2-0) increased the margin to a pair of goals 1:55 into the second period. With Fairfield Warde/Ludlowe putting on the pressure, Forleo took a pass from Nick Boanno, rushed into the offensive end down the right wing, and neatly lifted a backhander to the short side by goaltender John Grace for a 2-0 lead.
“This team does not give up,” Forleo said. “We are always hungry. We may have a slow start, but we are hungry to get going and play better.”
With West Haven pouring 13 shots on goal in the middle period, it was the special teams which helped build the lead to 3-0.
Down a man, Morgillo blocked a shot and raced in untouched to beat Grace with 6:42 to go in the second period.
“I thought we played a strong game,” Fairfield Warde/Ludlowe coach Carl Larouche said after his team’s season-opening loss. “I was very happy with the team. We made four or five mistakes and West Haven capitalized. Overall, I was very happy with the team.”
Fairfield Warde/Ludlowe cut the deficit to two goals 2:03 after Morgillo’s goal when Rhys Davies picked up a rebound of a Bobby Winter shot to beat Pliszka. The goal by Davies was the only goal allowed on 26 shots.
“He (Pliszka) has come up enormous for us,” Harris said. “I think the kids see it and they play harder in front of him.”
Fairfield Warde/Ludlowe had the shot advantage in the third period, but West Haven had the better opportunities.
After Ryan Bernardi was denied on a breakaway 2:45 into the final period, Morgillo later capitalized by picking up a loose puck in front to score for a 4-1 lead with 10:41 remaining. Morgillo’s second goal of the contest gave the Westies the cushion needed to secure the win.
“That cushion always helps,” Morgillo said. “It takes a lot of the stress off. Everyone delivered today. We have to keep it going.”
Forleo capped the scoring with 7:23 to go when he ripped a laser from the point past Grace for the 5-1 lead.
Grace finished with 24 saves in the loss for Fairfield Warde/Ludlowe.
On a Roll
Greene, Dupre lead Westies past Amity
By MIKE MADERA
(December 26, 2019) - Through three games of the season, the West Haven hockey team has been very clear on what needs to be done to be successful. Balanced scoring, tight defense and solid goaltending top the list.
Throw in the speed of the team and the ability to wear down opponents, and the Westies are looking like a team no one wants to play right now.
Behind a balanced scoring attack which saw eight different players in the scoring column, and another dominant effort by the defense, and goaltender Jared Pliszka, West Haven cruised to a 6-0 victory over Amity Thursday evening at the Edward L. Bennett Rink in West Haven.
“It is amazing,” West Haven coach Steve Harris said of his team’s depth and production. “All three lines can score. We are not worried about who is on the ice. Every line can score.”
The Westies had eight different players in the points column, led by Richie Greene with one goal and three assists, and Sean Dupre with two goals and one assist. Robbie Forleo and Kaden Morgillo each had a goal and an assist, while Colin Hines had two assists in the win.
“It is good to know we can put any of the lines out there and they will do a great job,” Greene said. “Different lines are out there and it is good for morale to see different lines starting. Guys are feeding off that.”
West Haven came out of the gates flying, taking a 4-0 lead after one period of play.
Forleo wasted no time getting the Westies on the board, scoring off an assist from Greene 2:07 into the contest. Just 4:50 later, the lead was 2-0 as Greene took a rebound of a Morgillo shot and found the back of the net for a power play goal.
The Westies needed just 41 seconds to jump out to a 3-0 advantage when Michael Kelly scored off a rebound of a Ryan Bernardi shot, with an assist going to Hines as well.
“We did not get off to quick starts the first two games, so we felt it was important to do so today,” Harris said. “We wanted to take advantage of our speed and jump out to a quick start.”
West Haven increased the lead to 4-0 with 4:11 remaining in the opening period as Dupre scored off an assist from Greene.
Pliszka needed to stop just 18 shots, none bigger than when he denied Amity’s Justin Miller on a breakaway with 2:40 to go in the first period.
“He has just been amazing,” Harris said of Pliszka. “He works hard in practice. His work ethic is second to none. We are blocking shots in front, We are doing a great job.”
The Westies put the game away with single goals in the first and second periods. Dupre gave the Westies a 5-0 lead with under six minutes to go in the middle period, taking a pass from Nico Bruneau on a 5-on-3 power play, and finding the top corner.
Morgillo capped the scoring with 7:42 left in the third, scoring on a rebound off assists from Hines and Greene.
Westies rally past St. Joseph
Ben Carfora, Moriarty lead WH to 4-0 record
By MIKE MADERA
(December 28, 2019) - For three games to start the season, the West Haven hockey team made things look easy, outscoring its opponents by 17 goals.
Things were different Saturday afternoon.
Facing a St. Joseph-Trumbull team which was looking for its first victory of the season, the Westies caught their first bit of adversity in the young season.
With a pair of power play goals and two short-handed tallies, West Haven responded and rallied from three one-goal deficits to defeat the Cadets 7-4 at the Edward L. Bennett Rink.
“For the first time this year, we faced some adversity,” West Haven head coach Steve Harris said. “We talked between the first and second periods, and we wanted to see how we were going to respond to it. We have been saying it from the start Discipline is huge for us. If we start like that against teams like Fairfield Prep, Hamden or Notre Dame, that is going to hurt us out of the gate.”
West Haven freshman Ben Carfora led a balanced attack with two goals and two assists, senior Robbie Forleo had one goal and two assists, and fellow senior Kevin Moriarty added a pair of goals. Senior Richie Greene and sophomore Nico Bruneau each added one goal and an assist as the Westies improved to 4-0 on the year.
“It took us a while to get going,” Carfora said. “But, then we started to play our game. We started strong in the third and just continued that.”
West Haven held a 49-21 shot advantage in the contest, including 14-9 in the opening period, but trailed for the first time this season, including 2-1 at the end of the period.
The Cadets struck first 6 minutes, 56 seconds into the contest when Johnny Karafa took a shot which West Haven goaltender Jared Pliszka appeared to never see through a crowd. The Westies evened the contest 4:14 later when Greene scored in front off an assist from Kaden Morgillo.
In a back and forth contest, St. Joseph needed just 1:08 to take the lead once again as John McNabola sent Kyle Marcinko on a breakaway. Marcinko went to the backhand and roofed a shot past Pliszka to the top corner.
“Last year, we would have folded,” St. Joseph head coach Eddy Lemaire said of his team battling back to continually take the lead early in the contest. “This year, we battle back.”
The game saw plenty of chippy moments and included 19 minutes of penalties in the second period. When all was said and done, the middle period also saw five combined goals and a 4-4 tie heading to the third period.
West Haven’s special teams was the difference in the period as a power play goal and short-handed goal twice tied the contest for the Westies.
Moriarty evened the game at two just 2:45 into the second with a power play goal in front off assists from Forleo and Greene.
The Cadets again battled back 1:08 later when Mark Husted-Edward ripped a shot from the point past Pliszka for a 3-2 advantage. Carfora evened the game at three 1:39 later, taking a pass from Bruneau and firing into an empty net from in front.
With the game back to hockey after a host of penalties in the final eight minutes of the period, St. Joseph took its last lead of the game when Wyatt Chrisman scored with a backhander on a breakaway with 3:45 remaining in the period.
“We can’t win games being in the penalty box,” Lemaire said. “That is the bottom line.”
The Westies then stole the momentum of the game in the final 30 seconds of the period. With West Haven down a man, Carfora picked up a loose puck in front and beat St. Joseph goaltender Tyler Stiewing to send the game to the final period even at four.
“He (Pliszka) made some big saves for us today,” Carfora said. “He was there when we needed him. We scored seven today, but (Pliszka) he made some big saves.”
The Westies picked up where they left off in the second period with a goal 1:04 into the third on the power play. Moriarty’s goal from in front, off assists from Forleo and Carfora, gave West Haven a 5-4 lead it never relinquished.
“Any time you score on the special teams, whether it is the power play or short-handed, it gives the team a boost,” Harris said. “St. Joseph played a great game. They played physical and came out ready to play. We were sloppy in the second period, but we got that late goal, then came out and regrouped for the third period.”
Carfora set up Bruneau in front with 9:07 to go for a 6-4 West Haven lead, and Pliszka and the West Haven defense did the rest, with Pliszka turning aside the only three shots he faced in the final period.
“I am happy with the win, but not happy with how we got it,” Harris said. “Jared (Pliszka) made some big saves for us, and the boys responded well.”
The final period saw 30 minutes of combined penalties.
Ben Carfora, Alfano lead WH over NH
By MIKE MADERA
(January 2, 2020) - Five games into the regular season, West Haven coach Steve Harris loves the way his team is playing. Five wins in five games is a great start.
The Westies showed plenty of grit in their latest victory. Playing without some key players due to injury and illness, West Haven improved to 5-0 with a 6-1 victory over North Haven Thursday evening at the Northford Ice Pavilion.
Seven different players were in the scoring column and Jared Pliszka continued his hot start with 15 saves as the Westies were in control from the start. Mike Alfano and Ben Carfora led the offense with two goals apiece, Nick Boanno and Richie Greene each had a goal and an assist, while Kevin Moriarty added two assists in the victory.
“Tonight, we had to use our depth,” Harris said. “Everyone contributed. We had guys out with injuries and sickness, and everyone stepped up.”
The Westies took a 2-0 lead in the opening period and never looked back. Carfora took advantage of a North Haven turnover and scored an unassisted goal 6 minutes, 31 seconds in.
Pliszka needed to make just three saves in the period, before Greene fed Boanno in front with 3:46 remaining for a 2-0 lead. Moriarty also picked up an assist on the goal.
After Carfora gave the Westies a 3-0 advantage 2:24 into the second off a scramble in front, Pliszka kept the lead at three with nine saves in the middle period, including a point blank shot with 6:17 remaining.
“The biggest thing for us is keeping the shots wide,” Harris said. “We want to keep them at the perimeter. Jared (Pliszka) is playing really well. We want to keep the shots to the perimeter and contain the middle.”
The Westies put the game away in the third period with three more tallies. Alfano had the biggest goals, scoring twice in 33 seconds for a 5-0 advantage.
After a North Haven turnover off the boards, Alfano picked up the loose puck and roofed a shot to the top corner for a 4-0 advantage 2:47 into the third. Alfano then took a pass from Ryan Bernardi and went to the lower right corner for a 5-0 lead.
“The big thing was, after the St. Joe’s game, we wanted to keep the pressure on for three periods,” Harris said. “We wanted to take advantage of the power play and put pressure on. In the last seven minutes of the second period, we got a little sloppy. We regrouped between the second and third periods, and got three in the third.”
Greene capped West Haven’s scoring off assists from Boanno and Moriarty with 11:12 remaining for a 6-0 lead. North Haven scored with 5:49 remaining to spoil Pliszka’s shutout bid.
Branford tops Westies 4-2
By MIKE MADERA
(January 4, 2020) - The win streak to open the season has come to an end for the West Haven boys hockey team. Facing a big and fast Branford hockey team, the Westies were defeated 4-2 Saturday afternoon at the Northford Ice Pavilion.
Despite each team taking 34 shots in the contest, Branford was in control from the start, taking a 2-0 lead in the first, and extending the margin to 4-1 after two periods of play.
“We came out flat,” West Haven coach Steve Harris said. “We could feel it even in warmups. We did not see any pep. But, Branford played a great game. They took it to us all three periods. You have to give them a lot of credit.”
Goals by Jack Manware and Blake Kustra gave Branford a 2-0 lead after one period of play, before Kustra and Daniel Farricelli scored in the second for a 4-0 advantage.
Branford goalie Jared Yakimoff was solid in goal for the Hornets, denying 19 West Haven shots in the first two periods, including D.J. Carfora in front with 4:13 left in the first, and Robbie Forleo’s point blast with 7:31 remaining in the second.
Off a perfect pass from Kaden Morgillo, Kevin Moriarty was turned aside 14 seconds before he found the back of the net for West Haven’s first goal of the game.
West Haven finally got on the scoreboard with 1:36 remaining in the period when Moriarty scored a power play goal in front off assists from Richie Greene and Morgillo.
Nick Boanno scored off an assist from Ben Carfora in the third, but it was not enough. Jared Pliszka and the Westies suffered their first loss of the season, despite Pliszka making 30 saves.
“It is not easy to take a loss, but a loss like this could help us,” Harris said. “We will see how we regroup from this on Monday.”
Westies fall to Warde/Ludlowe 5-2
By MIKE MADERA
(January 6, 2020) - After cruising through the first five games of the season, the West Haven boys hockey team is faced with some adversity. Fresh off its initial loss of the season against Branford, the Westies were looking to regroup against Fairfield Warde/Ludlowe Monday evening at the Wonderland of Ice.
Despite winning the first meeting of the two teams earlier in the year, West Haven could not match that effort and fell 5-2.
The two teams played to a scoreless game through two periods, before Fairfield Warde/Ludlowe scored three times in the first 5 minutes, 51 seconds of the final period, including the initial goal just 1:02 into the third.
Trailing 3-0, the Westies tried to rally, scoring twice in a span of 2:10 to get within a goal. Ben Carfora opened the West Haven scoring with 7:25 remaining off an assist from Sean Dupre, before D.J. Carfora scored off an assist from Robbie Forleo with 5:15 to go to get West Haven close at 3-2.
The Westies got no closer as Fairfield Warde/Ludlowe scored twice in the final 3:10, including goals 39 seconds apart, to pull away for the win.
East Haven tops Westies
WH drops to 5-3 with 2-1 loss
By MIKE MADERA
(January 11, 2020) - The losing streak has reached three games for the West Haven boys hockey team. Despite putting 49 shots on goal, the Westies fell to East Haven 2-1 Saturday afternoon on Sammy Hotchkiss Day at the Edward L. Bennett Rink.
East Haven goaltender Logan Hamilton made 48 saves, several in spectacular fashion as the Yellowjackets sent the Blue Devils to their third straight defeat.
West Haven took a 1-0 lead in the opening period when Kaden Morgillo skated in from the slot area, went to the backhand and beat Hamilton. Richie Greene and Kevin Moriarty assisted on the goal which came 5 minutes, 45 seconds into the contest.
Morgillo’s tally was the lone goal for the Blue Devils as Hamilton was on his game, including making stellar stops on Robbie Forleo, D.J. Carfora, Ben Carfora, Kevin Moriarty and Joe D’Aurio in the middle period in which West Haven held a 16-4 shot advantage.
While West Haven was held off the scoreboard, East Haven’s Parker Sprankle won the battle to a loose puck and beat West Haven goaltender Jared Pliszka at the 2:49 mark.
West Haven then held a 19-9 shot advantage in the third period, but again was denied by Hamilton. D.J. Carfora was turned aside by a blocker save with 11:10 remaining, Forleo was denied in front and D.J. Carfora was turned aside from the slot within seconds with 8:10 to go.
East Haven scored the go-ahead goal with 5:07 remaining when Alec Speirs knocked in a rebound of a Dave Amatruda shot,
West Haven put the pressure on in the final minutes, but Hamilton was not to be beaten as he denied Morgillo in front with a pad save with 3:12 to go. Moriarty then had a pair of opportunities in front, but saw his initial shot deflected over the goal, and his second sail just over the crossbar.
Prep blanks Westies
WH drops fourth straight
By MIKE MADERA
(January 15, 2020) - After starting the season in feel-good fashion, the West Haven boys hockey team has seen adversity cross its way. The battle to get through a three-game losing streak was up for a tall test against Fairfield Prep Wednesday evening.
Despite a scoreless first period, the Westies watched as the Jesuits scored three times in each of the second and third periods to top West Haven 6-0 at the Wonderland of Ice.
The Westies were outshot 41-17 in the contest with Jared Pliszka making 35 saves.
BOYS HOCKEY 2019-2020
State Champions - 1949, 1961, 1964, 1976, 1984, 1988, 1990, 1994
All-State Players - Ray Luedee '75; Mark Carlo '76, '77; Marty Crouse '77, '78; Don MacMillan '77; Eddie Merola '79; Bob Serenson '84; Jay Andrew '84; Mark Anquillare '84; Mike Gilbert '87; Mike Woznyk '87; Paul Mulligan '88; Darrell Galasso '90; Rob Kryznel '93; Keith Dupee '94; Shaun Jackson '00; Aaron Beauvais '00; Tom Withington '00; Mark Heffernan '00, '01, '02; Brandon Fanelli '02; Jim Lafo '02; Chris Quagliani '02; Ron Baia '03; Nick Quagliani '03; Chris Shore '04; Joe Pereira '05; Ken Comfort '06; Joe Innamorato '07; John Ascenzia '10; Tim Baylis '10; J.P. Withington '11; Kyle Leyerzapf '12; Mike Troiano '12; Austin Hansen '13; Mike Savino '14; Alex Scranton '14; Mike Savino '15; Tyler Paine '16; Pete Richetelli '17; Brendan Serenson '17; Alex Lynch '17; Niko Kyle '18; Rob Forleo '20
Rams edge Westies
Losing streak at five for WH
By MIKE MADERA
(January 18, 2020) - With inclement weather approaching, Saturday morning’s contest between Cheshire and West Haven was moved to an earlier start time. The Westies were hoping such a change could lead to a different result as they were in the midst of a four-game skid.
While West Haven got on the board first, Cheshire scored the last three and topped West Haven 3-1 to send the Westies to their fifth straight loss.
Kaden Morgillo got the Westies going in the contest when he scored 9 minutes, 44 seconds into the game off an assist from Robbie Forleo.
Morgillo’s goal was West Haven’s only lead of the game and it was short-lived as Cheshire scored 1:59 later.
After a scoreless second period, Cheshire took a 2-1 lead 50 seconds into the third. West Haven never got the equalizer and the Rams iced the contest with an insurance tally with 27 seconds remaining.Jared Pliszka made 17 saves in the loss for West Haven.
WH tops Hamden 3-1
By MIKE MADERA
(January 22, 2020) - With a five-game losing streak in hand, Jared Pliszka and the West Haven hockey team had the perfect remedy. A contest against arch-rival Hamden was sure to get the Westies going.
Behind 28 saves from Pliszka, a strong defensive effort, and an all-around solid performance by the Westies, West Haven snapped its five-game skid with a 3-1 victory over Hamden in front of a capacity crowd at the Edward L. Bennett Rink in West Haven Wednesday evening.
“Obviously, it is good to end the losing streak,” Pliszka said. “We had a couple of good practices this week and we were ready to go.”
Pliszka was more than ready in the final minutes of the game, turning aside severral quality Hamden scoring opportunities, including a point blank shot by Jack Shane in the closing seconds. The ensuing play saw senior Robbie Forleo fire into an empty net for the two-goal lead with 15.5 seconds remaining.
“He has been amazing,” West Haven coach Steve Harris said of Pliszka. “He is a quiet leader out there. He may not wear a “C” or an “A”, but he is a quiet leader. The kids feed off him.”
For West Haven (6-5), the contest was a necessary victory after five losses followed the handful of victories which opened the season. West Haven was outshot in the opening period, but hard work by the Blue Devils in the middle period produced the first goal of the game.
Senior Richie Greene circled in front and had his shot turned aside by Hamden goaltender Maxx Ricci, who finished with 32 saves in the contest. The rebound came out front where freshman Ben Carfora tucked the puck inside the left post for a 1-0 advantage with 7:52 remaining in the middle period.
“We definitely came out with a lot of fire,” West Haven senior Kaden Morgillo said. “Everyone gave everything they had. We haven’t beaten them in five years. Every player fought and gave 150%.”
The Green Dragons had plenty of scoring opportunities in the middle period, but Pliszka turned aside all eight shots. The senior was at his best when he denied Brandon Sargolini with a pad save in front with 6:49 left in the period, then denied Christopher Dolan with a glove save 37 seconds later.
"The crowd was into it,” Hamden coach Todd Hall said. “It felt a little old-school out there. I love playing in this rink. You have to give credit to West Haven. They played hard and they beat us. They got to everything. They worked hard and they deserved it.”
West Haven increased the lead to 2-0 just 34 seconds into the third period when Kevin Moriarty scooped up a loose puck in front and beat Ricci.
“That goal was them getting to those pucks we talked about,” Hall said. “We were a little short, but they got there. Give them credit. They were the first to the puck.”
Hamden (7-4) did not go away and less than three minutes later, the Green Dragons were within a goal. With traffic in front, Alan Cozzolino just got enough of the puck to have it trickle by Pliszka with 11:29 remaining off assists from Anthony Malonis and Joseph D’Adamo.
West Haven was not to be denied and forced a pair of two-on-one breaks. Nick Boanno fed Morgillo on the first and Carfora hit Colin Hines in stride on the next, but Ricci came up big each time, keeping the Hamden deficit at one with 5:30 remaining.
“This is a big rivalry,” Harris said. “Most of these kids, the seniors, have never beaten Hamden before. The seniors really stepped it up. We had two great days of practice and it showed.”
East Catholic tops WH
WH falls to 6-6 with 5-2 loss
By MIKE MADERA
(January 25, 2020) - The West Haven boys hockey team was coming off an impressive victory over Hamden. The Westies looked to carry that momentum into Saturday evening’s contest with East Catholic.
While the Westies jumped out to a two-goal lead, they were not able to seal the contest, allowing the last five goals and falling to East Catholic 5-2. With the loss, West Haven fell to 6-6 on the year.
The Westies jumped out to a 1-0 lead in the first period on a goal by Ben Carfora at the 11:43 mark. West Haven increased the margin to 2-0 1:11 into the second period on a tally by D.J. Carfora off an assist from Kaden Morgillo.
That was all the offense for West Haven as the team’s offense went silent the rest of the way. East Catholic scored the last five goals, including two in a span of 4:58 to even the contest in the second period.
East Catholic took a 3-2 lead 3:15 into the third and sealed the contest with two goals in the final 2:01 of the contest.
Jared Pliszka added 20 saves in the loss for West Haven.
WH sweeps Hamden
Morgillo leads Westies to 5-2 win
By MIKE MADERA
(January 29, 2020) - The West Haven boys hockey team entered Wednesday evening’s contest at Lou Astorino Rink having lost five of its last six games. West Haven’s only victory came against Hamden a week earlier in West Haven.
Looking to sweep the season series, West Haven fell behind early, then rallied for the next five goals in a 5-2 victory over the Green Dragons in Hamden.
Kaden Morgillo led the offense with two goals, while Kevin Moriarty and Richie Greene each had a goal and an assist in the win. Jared Pliszka made 37 saves.
Trailing 1-0, West Haven scored four times in a span of 3:32 in the second period to take a three-goal lead. Moriarty tied the game off an assist from Greene at the 5:58 mark, and Morgillo gave the Westies the lead for good 26 seconds later off assists from Ben Carfora and D.J. Carfora.
Just 1:11 later, it was 3-1 as Nick Boann0 scored an unassisted goal. When Morgillo added an unassisted tally 1:45 later, West Haven took a 4-1 lead to the third period.Greene scored at the 8:55 mark to put the game out of reach. While Hamden scored 49 seconds later, West Haven prevailed to improve to 7-6 on the year.
NDFF tops Westies
Lancers score three in 3rd to post 6-3 win
By MIKE MADERA
(February 1, 2020) - The West Haven boys hockey team is looking to pick up some momentum once again. After opening the season with five consecutive wins, the team has been inconsistent.
Following its second win of the season against Hamden three days earlier, West Haven had a tough contest with Notre Dame-Fairfield on Saturday. While the Westies battled, the Lancers scored the final four goals of the contest, including three in the final 8:14 of the third period to post a 6-3 victory over West Haven at the Edward L. Bennett Rink Saturday afternoon.
West Haven (7-7) received 27 saves from Jared Pliszka, but it was not enough as West Haven lost for the seventh time in nine games.
Trailing 1-0 in the opening period, West Haven evened the contest when Kevin Moriarty scored with 49 seconds remaining off assists from Nick Boanno and Nico Bruneau.
The Lancers took a 2-1 lead 3:08 into the second, but Richie Greene evened the contest at two off an assist from Robbie Forleo 5:26 later. West Haven took its only lead of the contest 1:51ater on a goal by Kaden Morgillo, assisted by Ben Carfora.The Lancers evened the contest with 1:31 left in the second, then won the game with three third period goals.
Westies blank Guilford
Pliszka records shutout
By MIKE MADERA
(February 5, 2020) - It may have taken a little bit of time, but the West Haven hockey team got the job done. Scoring four times in the third period, West Haven defeated Guilford 5-0 in East Haven Wednesday evening, improving to 8-7 on the year.
With several players out with either injury, sickness or other reasons, West Haven turned to its entire lineup. Nick Boanno led the way with two goals and two assists, and Kevin Moriarty and Michael Kelly each had a goal and two assists.
West Haven took a 1-0 lead in the opening period when Robbie Forleo scored off assists from Boanno and Ben Carfora at the 12:37 mark. The score would remain that way until the third period.
Boanno scored the first of West Haven’s four third period goals and gave the Westies a 2-0 lead 36 seconds in off assists from Moriarty and Kelly, before the lead increased to 3-0 when Kelly scored off assists from Moriarty and Boanno at the 2:16 mark.
Just 3:07 later, West Haven had a 4-0 advantage when Moriarty scored off assists from Sean Dupre and Conner Fowler. Boanno wrapped up the scoring 54 seconds later off assists from Kelly and Nico Bruneau.
Jared Pliszka made 18 saves in the win.
Morgillo leads Westies
Senior scores 3 times in 7-4 win over Simsbury
By MIKE MADERA
(February 8, 2020) - After a prolonged slump, the West Haven boys hockey team looks as if it has righted the ship. Playing better hockey as of late, the Westies won their second in a row with a 7-4 victory over Simsbury Saturday afternoon at the Edward L. Bennett Rink in West Haven.
With the win, West Haven improved to 9-7 on the year.
Kaden Morgillo led the way with three goals and an assist, Kevin Moriarty had a goal and three assists, and Jared Pliszka made 21 saves in the win.
The Westies needed just 23 seconds to take a 1-0 lead in the opening period when Sean Dupre scored off an assist from Nick Boanno. Just 1:35 later, it was a 2-0 contest as Boanno scored off an assist from Moriarty. When Morgillo scored the first of his three goals 20 seconds later, West Haven led 3-0.
Simsbury refused to quit, scoring once in the first period and two more in the second to even the game at three.
Carfora gave West Haven the lead for good with 2:35 left in the second off assists from Moriarty and Anthony Peschell, before Moriarty scored off an assist from Morgillo with 14 seconds left in the second for a 5-3 lead.
Morgillo then put the game away early in the third with a pair of goals 29 seconds apart. Morgillo’s first tally of the period was unassisted, and his second came off an assist from Moriarty 4:03 into the third for a 7-3 lead.
Westies fall to ND
Late goal lifts Green Knights in classic battle
By MIKE MADERA
(February 12, 2020) - When two bitter rivals meet, records can be thrown out the window. When they share the same rink, the emotions are higher.
For 45 minutes, both the West Haven and Notre Dame-West Haven hockey teams played in a classic high school contest.
In the end, it was a West Haven native, Connor Faughnan, who proved to be the difference-maker for the Green Knights, ranked third in the GameTimeCT Top 10 poll.
Taking a pass from Joe DeLucia from behind the net, Faughnan roofed a shot from in front past West Haven goaltender Jared Pliszka with 1 minute, 21 seconds remaining as the Green Knights topped the Blue Devils 2-0 in a Division I contest at the Edward L. Bennett Rink in West Haven Wednesday evening.
“He (Pliszka) played a great hockey game,” Faughnan said. “We were just trying to click and get one by him. We changed the lines and I got a nice pass from (Joe) DeLucia, and I was able to bury it.”
The goal by Faughnan spoiled what was a magnificent effort by Pliszka in goal as the West Haven goaltender finished with 38 saves, several in outstanding fashion.
“I thought he was amazing,” West Haven coach Steve Harris said of Pliszka. “That is the only word I can use. He came up huge all night. He made some big saves. He kept us in the game and I think the kids fed off of it.”
While Pliszka was outstanding for the Westies, not to be lost in the mix was the play of Notre Dame goaltender Connor Smith, who turned aside 29 shots in posting the shutout. Smith was amazing at times, but was at this best in the final 60 seconds when a flurry of West Haven shots, all from in close, failed to get by the Notre Dame netminder.
“That is what we are talking about to the kids,” Notre Dame coach Larry Vieira said of the atmosphere at the rink. “We tell the kids to play their hearts out and enjoy the atmosphere. This is what high school hockey is about. It was a clean, hard-fought hockey game between bitter rivals. At the end of the game, you shake hands and move on. Tonight was the poster child of what high school hockey is about.”
After Smith denied West Haven in the final 30 seconds, Joseph D’Agostino, who had been turned aside several times in the contest, including on a 3-on-1 break earlier in the third, fired into an empty net with 3.9 seconds remaining for the 2-0 final.
“We talk about our formula which is using our depth and staying penalty free,” Vieira said after his team improved to 13-4. “We do not score a lot, but we do not allow a lot of goals. The kids have bought in.”
Pliszka single-handedly kept the Blue Devils in the contest in the second period as well with 20 saves.
West Haven’s senior netminder was at his best, denying D’Agostino in front on an odd-man rush 3:07 in, before denying Chris Hughes twice in front 5:30 in, and making a blocker save on a blast from the point by Zachary Schroeder with 6:58 to go in the period.
The Blue Devils were forced to kill a pair of penalties in the middle period, and despite the Green Knights getting quality scoring opportunities from DeLucia, and a laser off the stick of John-Michael Childs, the Green Knights were unable to get on the board.
West Haven (9-8) had ten shots in the middle period, but just one golden opportunity when Richie Greene broke down the left wing and had to be turned aside by Smith with 1:45 remaining in the period.
“This was a great high school hockey game,” Harris said. “These kids have nothing to hang their heads about. This was a complete team effort for three periods. I cannot take anything away from the way they played.”
After a well-played opening period, the game was scoreless thanks to the goaltending of Pliszka and Smith as each stopped 11 shots in the period.
Smith had several outstanding saves, including a breakaway stop on D.J. Carfora 3:30 into the game. Smith then turned aside a shot by Kaden Morgillo and the rebound by D.J. Carfora with 6:35 left in the opening period, and denied Ben Carfora in front seconds later.
The Westies had several other quality attempts in the period, but Smith also turned aside a rebound by Morgillo with 5:45 left, and a hard shot by Nick Boanno from the slot with one minute remaining in the period.
For the Green Knights, they also had quality opportunities in the opening period turned aside by Pliszka.
The senior goaltender denied D’Errico in front four minutes in, turned aside a shot by Childs off the left wing with 7:09 to go, then made a nice pad save on a shot from Ryan Ahern with 2:07 left in the opening period.
Pliszka also came up big when he turned aside a point shot by Rob Goetze with a pad save with 2:07 left in the first period.
Moriarty leads Westies
Senior has 3 goals and 2 assists in 7-4 win
By MIKE MADERA
(February 15, 2020) - After a gut-wrenching loss against cross-town rival Notre Dame Wednesday evening, the West Haven boys hockey team was eager to get back on the ice.
Saturday could not come soon enough and the Westies took advantage with a 7-4 road victory over Glastonbury. The win was West Haven’s third in four games and helped the Westies improve to 10-8.
Senior Kevin Moriarty led the way with three goals and two assists, while Nick Boanno had two goals, and Richie Greene and Robbie Forleo each had a pair of assists.
The Westies got off to a quick start and never looked back, taking a 2-1 lead after one period. Moriarty scored 1 minute, 23 seconds into the game for a 1-0 lead, before Glastonbury tied the game 1:11 later.
Greene made sure the Westies went to the middle period with a lead as he scored off an assist from Moriarty with 3:31 left in the first.
The Westies took a 4-1 lead and led 5-2 after two periods of play. Boanno scored twice in a span of 2:23, the first off assists from Greene and Moriarty, and the second off an assist from Ryan Bernardi. Leading 4-2, Moriarty scored off an assist from Greene with 59.2 seconds left in the second for a three-goal lead.
West Haven increased the lead to 6-2 and appeared to put the game away 1:24 into the third when Kaden Morgillo scored off an assist from Forleo. That lead was cut in half after Glastonbury scored twice in 2:02, but Moriarty iced the game with 1:05 to go off assists from Forleo and Jared Pliszka.
Pliszka finished the contest with 24 saves.
On the Road
Tie with Xavier puts WH on road in state tournament
By MIKE MADERA
(February 26, 2020) - This one may sting a little bit. After returning to game action for the first time in eleven days, the West Haven boys hockey team play a thriller against Xavier.
Unfortunately for the Westies, they could not bury several glorious opportunities and played to a 1-1 tie with the Falcons. Despite everything which felt good about the contest, including 50 saves from Jared Pliszka, the tie pretty much sealed West Haven’s fate as the ninth seed in the Division I state tournament.
In all likelihood, West Haven will open the tournament with a road contest at Greenwich. A victory over the Falcons would have put the Westies in a position where a home contest in the tournament would have been a possibility.
“It was a great game by both teams,” West Haven coach Steve Harris said. “There was a lot at stake for us, especially with it being Senior Night. We came in ready to go and played great periods of hockey. I thought we played well.”
After a scoreless first period in which Pliszka made 14 saves, Pliszka denied a 2-on-1 just 3:33 in, then made another stop in front with 7:38 left in the second.
“He has been our silent leader all year,” Harris said of Pliszka. “He has kept us in game upon game. He had a lot to give tonight, knowing this could possibly be the last time he played in this rink.”
While Pliszka was doing his thing, the Westies could not capitalize offensively as D.J. Carfora was denied on a 2-on-1 with Ben Carfora.
West Haven finally took a 1-0 lead when Ben Carfora created in front, then took the initial shot which was tipped in by Colin Hines for a 1-0 lead with 6:29 left in the second.
Both teams put the pressure on in the third, but the only goal belonged to Xavier as a short-handed tally evened the contest with 4:35 gone by.
The Westies then had three breakaway opportunities to either take the lead or win the game, but could not convert.Nick Boanno was stopped with 9:40 remaining by a pad save, as was Kaden Morgillo with 3:05 left. Morgillo was then turned aside in overtime with 2:50 remaining.
Westies top Immaculate
WH ends regular season 11-8-1
By MIKE MADERA
(March 2, 2020) - With the seeding for the state tournament already set, the regular season finale for the West Haven boys hockey team was about getting ready for the postseason and ending on a positive note.
In a close contest, West Haven defeated Immaculate 4-3 in Danbury Monday evening to end the regular season 11-8-1.
Kevin Moriarty led the West Haven offense with a goal and an assist, while nine different players were in the scoring column.
West Haven started quickly in the contest, taking a 2-0 lead through one period of play. Moriarty put the Westies on the board with a goal off an assist from Richie Greene with 6:15 left in the first period, before Michael Kelly scored off assists from Ryan Bernardi and Nico Bruneau less than a minute later.
Leading 2-1 in the second, Nick Boanno restored the two-goal lead off an assist from Sean Dupre with 7:45 to go, before Immaculate answered 1:03 later.The score remained 3-2 until Conner Fowler scored a power play goal with 1:36 remaining for a 4-2 West Haven lead. Fowler’s goal would prove to be a big one as Immaculate scored in the final minute to get within 4-3.
Jared Pliszka made 28 saves in the win for West Haven.
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