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North Branford Hockey Moves on to State Semis

The T-Birds topped Milford Co-Op to move to the semifinals of the Division II State Tournament to take on Branford tonight in New Haven.

The 2011-12 regular season has certainly prepared the hockey team for the Division II State Tournament. The shut out 14th-seed East Catholic 3-0 in the first round, a team they also beat in the regular season.

The win pitted North Branford , the No. 6 seed, in the quarterfinals on March 9. The teams split the regular-season series, but the T-Birds took a 5-4 win in states to keep the 2011-12 season alive.

According to MaxPreps, Milford outshot North Branford 29-27, but the T-Birds' Kyle Saroka came up with 25 saves. 

Milford took an early lead when TJ Olsson scored from Nick Depascale 5:46 into the contest. North Branford's Dylan Podbielski then netted an unassisted goal about five minutes later to tie it heading into the second period.

The second period saw four more goals tallied with each team scoring twice. Again Milford struck first with John Mclenithan scoring just 1:25 into the frame off assists by Craig Wargo and Olsson. Only 90 seconds later, Podbielski again evened the score, this time assisted by Alec Martone. 

Martone then gave North Branford its first lead of the game with a goal assisted by Nick Johnson. Just before the end of the second period, Milford knotted it again as Zach White assited a Ben Levalle goal.

The third period opened in the same fashion as the first two with Milford notching the first goal–this one by Wargo from John Depascale. North Branford, though, came back with two unanswered scores to tie it and then claim the victory.

With a little more than six minutes to play, Chris Burkle tied it 4-4 off an assist from Podbielski. With 2:37 to play, Rich Affinito scored the game-winner to send North Branford to the semifinals and end Milford Co-Op's season with a 13-9-1 record. 

North Branford now is set to face another familiar opponent–Branford–in the semifinals, which are at Ingalls Rink in New Haven tonight, March 12, at 7:30 p.m. The teams split the regular-season series with North Branford taking a 6-3 win on Feb. 1, while Branford earned a 4-2 victory on Feb. 25.

Branford finished the regular season with an 11-9 record to earn the No. 7 seed. The Hornets continued to build momentum by claiming the SCC title with a 5-4 overtime win over Hand. 

Then, in the first round of the state tournament, the Hornets topped 10th-seeded Staples-Weston-Shelton 4-3. (Check out MaxPreps' photo gallery of the game.) That set up a rematch of the SCC finals in which Branford took on second-seeded Hand.

Branford again came out on top on March 9, upsetting the Tigers 3-1 in the quarterfinals.

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