WEST HAVEN -- The Fairfield co-op boys ice hockey team had one simple mission entering the third period of its CIAC Division II state tournament first-round game at Bennett Rink on Tuesday night. Get the equalizing goal against second-seeded Amity, or else its title defense of the 2013 championship would come to an end without gaining any traction.
Fairfield was persistent throughout the third period and got its third goal with 1:18 remaining. But unfortunately for the skaters from Fairfield Warde and Fairfield Ludlowe high schools, that did not tie it up.
Amity had scored an empty-net goal 40 seconds earlier for a two-goal lead. The Spartans blocked a shot with nine seconds left while killing off a 6-on-4, empty-net Fairfield power play, and Amity goaltender Brian Mosher made his 26th and final save in the final second to protect a 4-3 Amity victory.
The Spartans, who improved to 15-8-0, advanced to the quarterfinals Friday against No. 10 New Milford, a 4-2 first-round winner over the No. 7 Rockville-BCL co-op on Tuesday afternoon. Fairfield, seeded 15th, ended its season with 7-15-0 record after losing its last three games, including an FCIAC quarterfinal on Feb. 28.
Fairfield coach Mark Pettorini called time out with 2:09 left in the third period and Amity up 3-2. He pulled goalie Mike Grace. Eleven seconds later, the Spartans' Zachary Shelnitz recorded his second goal of the game when John Pignataro sent a cross-ice pass to the goalmouth that reached Shelnitz for a tap-in instead of a diving Fairfield defenseman nearly breaking up the play.
But Fairfield regrouped for a final push. Zach Weinstein's 40-foot low blast from between the points made it 4-3 with 1:18 to play. With 28.4 seconds left, Amity was penalized, leading to the final blocked shot and save in the last nine seconds.
Amity converted three of its four power-play opportunities. Fairfield was 1-for-1 until its abbreviated man advantage in the final 29 seconds.
"If we played the whole game five-on-five, we win 2-0," Pettorini said. "Lack of discipline (on penalty killing) cost us. The game definitely could have gone our way; the game should've gone our way."
Pettorini and Amity assistant coach Mike Richetellli, running the Spartans for head coach Gary Lindgren, who is ill, both termed Amity's first goal -- with Fairfield leading 2-0 -- as huge. It came with 56 seconds left in the first period.
"You want to come into the locker room with the lead," Pettorini said. "But you want to go in on a positive note."
Fairfield was penalized in the final three-and-a-half seconds of the first period. Fairfield killed off the continuation of the penalty at the start of the second period, the only time the Spartans failed to convert with the extra man all game. The momentum had swung to Amity.
The Spartans got power-play goals from Adam Shea, at 4:59 to tie it at 2-2, and Shelnitz, at 11:31 for a 3-2 lead. Conor Scharlop had opened the scoring with a power-play goal at 10:54 of the first period and Trevor Demilt scored on his own rebound for a 2-0 Fairfield lead at 13:05.
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CIAC Division II first-round
Amity 4, Fairfield 3
FAIRFIELD 2 0 1--3
AMITY 1 2 1--4
Records: Fairfield 7-15-0; Amity 15-8-0. Goals: F--Conor Scharlop, Trevor Demilt, Zach Weinstein. A--Zach Shelnitz 2, Adam Shea, Brett McNeill. Assists: F--Jack O'Rourke 2, Scharlop, Austin Armas, Matthew Stern, Jack McCormick; A--Dalton Luciani, Shea, John Pignataro, John Crocker. Goalies: F--Mike Grace (34 saves); A--Brian Mosher (26). Shots: F--29; A--38. Highlights: F--1 for 2 on the power play; A--3 for 4 on the power play.