The `goat' turning into the `hero' is a familiar scenario in sports. And it sort of played out that way in short order during an FCIAC boys ice hockey game Wednesday night at the Wonderland of Ice in Bridgeport.
The Fairfield co-op player who committed the penalty on which visiting St. Joseph got the equalizing goal late in the third period was the same player who scored a solo game-winning goal less than a minute later. Fairfield captain Conor Scharlop, after being called for interference with 3 minutes and 32 seconds remaining, dashed down ice, beat a Cadets' defender, then from close range lifted a shot over the shoulder of St. Joseph goaltender Dylan Batterson to give the defending CIAC Division II state champions a 3-2 victory.
Fairfield, which had scored but six goals all season before Wednesday, improved to 1-4-1, while the Cadets (2-4-0) lost for the fourth time in their last five games.
Fairfield scored goals 50 seconds apart in the first period for a 2-0 lead, with Owen Emmoendorfer opening the scoring and Matthew Roberts following up. The Cadets scored a pair of power play goals when Colin Powell converted with 7:48 remaining in the third period and Ryan Corcoran knocked in Dom DeRosa's goalmouth feed with 2:31 left.
Scharlop left the penalty box on Corcoran's goal. Within 58 seconds, he had atoned for his penalty by knocking the puck past a defender, darting up ice, then beating another defender before firing home what soon became the winner. St. Joseph had 1:43 in which to rally after Scharlop's go-ahead sniping.
Perhaps not too much guilt can be sent Scharlop's way for his penalty. If he had not interfered, a Cadets' forward would have had a clear path toward Fairfield goalie Kyle Greenhut. Greenhut made 26 saves, but there would have been plenty of drama if the play had unfolded as a breakaway with the game on the line. The suspense then was directed toward the Cadets' power play and Fairfield penalty kill.
"That was a beautiful goal," St. Joseph coach Marty Crouse said of Scharlop's dash. "That shows you what hard work can do."
"That was a great shot," said Fairfield coach Mark Pettorini. "He put it where it needed to be."
"All I was thinking about was `green light, green light (which is turned on to signal a goal),' all the way down the ice," Scharlop said. "I put it up high. It hit the inside crossbar."
For Scharlop, a defenseman, it was his first goal of 2013-14 and the 14th of his four-year career.
"We played so pumped," said Scharlop, a Fairfield Warde student. "Our whole focus was we came out and we wanted it. We wanted it more than they did. I've played with a lot of the St. Joseph players."
Pettorini praised his team for following his strategy, which, after the team averaged 1.5 goals per game and relied on the standout goaltending by Greenhut, took on a simple, basic theme.
"Our game plan, everyone did a good job with it. That's why we had some success," Pettorini said. "That was a big one (win). That was great goaltending (by Greenhut). He got us through a state championship last year. He's been great."
With one-third of Fairfield's goal output coming on Wednesday, Pettorini knows that a bulk of his offense will come from "blue-collar goals, hard-working goals," he said.
Crouse searched for the apt way to characterize his team's slump -- all losses except for a 9-0 thumping of South Windsor (1-4-0) on Dec. 28 after a season-opening win over Guilford (1-4-0). Finally, he said, "I'm dumbfounded. I've coached for 10 years and there have been a lot of ups and downs, I've seen a lot of things. I'm just dumbfounded right now.
"In the last couple of games, we've strung together a fair amount of poor performances," Crouse said. "Something's got to give. We don't shoot with a purpose; we don't finish. We think we've done our job just by getting a shot.
"It feels like we're a bleeding fish in a shark tank right now," Crouse said.
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Fairfield 3, St. Joseph 2
ST. JOSEPH 0 0 2--2
FAIRFIELD 2 0 1--3
Records: St. Joseph 2-4-0, 0-1-0 FCIAC; Fairfield 1-4-0, 1-0-0 FCIAC. Goals: SJ--Colin Powell, Ryan Corcoran; F--Owen Emmoendorfer, Matthew Roberts, Conor Scharlop. Assists: SJ--Ryan Corcoran, Dom DeRosa, Nick DiSabella; F--Jack O'Rourke. Goalies: SJ--Dylan Batterson (11 saves); F--Kyle Greenhut (26 saves). Shots: SJ--28; F--14.