MILFORD -- The Division III state playoffs are still a couple of weeks away, but the Westhill and Staples-Weston-Shelton boys ice hockey teams suited up in a possible postseason preview on Thursday night at the Milford Ice Pavilion.

An even contest that was tied at a goal apiece heading into the final period, the Wreckers got the bounces required to separate two evenly-matched teams.

Ryan Johnson scored a natural hat trick in a wild third period, lifting Staples to a 5-2 win over Vikings.

"They finally showed what they could do," coach Todd Sharinn said of his Wreckers, who were informed by the FCIAC Thursday they would not be eligible for the league playoffs due to their co-op status. "We got lucky and we came out on top; we got a couple of good bounces ¦ The kids definitely stepped up and played their hearts out; I'm proud of them.

Both teams entered the game in the Top 5 of the Division III rankings -- though other schools have played far fewer contests due to the winter weather.

"We're definitely going to be ready for the tournament," Westhill coach John Santagata said. "We've played Division I teams to ties and beaten Division II teams."

Johnson scored 17 seconds into the final period, but the Wreckers took a penalty immediately after and the Vikings cashed in on the power play to tie the game at 2-2.

Special teams played a major role in the outcome, as Johnson scored the game-winning goal on the power play to put Staples ahead 3-2 after a shot from the point bounced off the back wall and right to his stick with 6:54 remaining.

The Vikings got a pair of power play opportunities late in the game, which created a 5-on-3 advantage for 45 seconds. The Staples defense held firm and managed to increase its lead during the sequence.

"We hit a post, a crossbar, had a shot go high," Santagata said. "We just didn't have the bounces go our way tonight."

With the first penalty killed, Jesse Greenspun chased a loose puck on a breakaway and finished to push the lead to 4-2 with two minutes left. Johnson added an empty-net goal to complete the scoring.

"(Greenspun) is a phenomenal skater and has great agility," Sharinn said. "His greatest skill is his heart and his guts; he bleeds the colors of our team."

Vikings goalie Christian Compolattaro was beaten by Sam New late in the first period to tie the game at 1-1. The goal snapped a streak of more than 100 minutes the sophomore hadn't allowed a goal.

The Vikings, playing less than 24 hours after defeating Trumbull 1-0, dominated the second period and had multiple chances to take the lead. Wreckers goalie Zack Bloom made 13 saves during the period, including one on a 3-on-1 rush late in the frame. The Vikings also had a two-man advantage for 40 seconds.

"We came off a big game last night that was a physical game, so I knew we were going to be a bit stretched playing a back-to-back," Santagata said. "We started off a little flat and we were out of gas in the third period.", @ryanlacey11

Staples-Weston-Shelton 5, Westhill 2

WESTHILL 1 0 0 -- 2


Records: Westhill 8-6-1, 4-5-1; Staples 9-8, 4-6 FCIAC. Goals: W--Dan Rotkewicz 2; S--Sam New, Ryan Johnson 3, Jesse Greenspun. Assists: W--Matt Abt, Gunner Eriksen, Scott Reville; S--Johnson, New 2. Goalies: W--Christian Compolattaro (23 saves); S--Zack Bloom (24 saves).