For two-and-a-half periods, the Greenwich High School boys hockey team's game against Xavier was there for the taking, as it trailed the third-ranked team in the state by just one goal.
But two Xavier goals midway through the third period quickly put a different complexion on the game.
Xavier scored twice during 24-second span in the final period before skating to a 4-1 victory over Greenwich Wednesday night in a non-conference matchup at Dorothy Hamill Skating Rink.
Senior forward Ryan McLellan tallied the go-ahead goal in the second period and junior forwards Jack Gethings and Sean Johnson gave the Falcons some breathing room with third-period goals. Sophomore forward Brian Silard scored for the Cardinals, who played the Falcons to a standstill during the opening period, but saw the visitors carry the momentum in the second.
"We played a really good first period, but I'm a little disappointed we didn't come out as strong the last two periods," Cardinals coach Bob Russel said. "We're improving though and I really feel that we're heading in the right direction."
Silard gave Greenwich a 1-0 lead with 3 minutes 39 seconds remaining in the first period, snapping in a backhand off a breakaway. The Cardinals outshot the Falcons 7-6 for the period, with sophomore forwards Decker Curran and Alex Bastone pressuring the puck in the Falcons' zone.
"If we take away what we did in the first period and fix our mistakes we'll be okay," Silard said. "The first period we kept our feet moving and moved the puck. It's frustrating the way we came out in the first period compared to how we came out the last two periods. We need to start coming together as a team and build chemistry."
Xavier (5-2), which suffered a 5-2 loss to rival Notre Dame-West Haven on Monday, tied the score at 1-1 when junior forward Bryan Stanton went top shelf with his wrist shot with just 40.2 seconds to go in the first period.
"We were afraid of games like this," said Xavier coach Scott Gainey, whose squad exhibited a strong forecheck in the second period. "We had an emotional game against Notre Dame-West Haven on Monday and a long bus ride here, so we were concerned we would have a lack of emotion, which we did in the first period. The second period, we did a nice job of sustaining pressure. Not every game is going to be pretty, so we are going to have to win these kinds of games to get those points."
McLellan gave the Falcons the lead for good, scoring off a cross-ice pass from senior forward William Stanton 3:41 into the third period. Xavier outshot Greenwich 18-3 during the second period and could have enjoyed a bigger lead if not for the impressive play of Cardinals goalie Bryan Archino. The sophomore netminder made 27 saves for GHS, which was outshot 31-12 for the game.
"Our goalie stood on his head, he had a bunch of saves that bailed us out," Greenwich senior tri-captain and defenseman William Waesche said. "This year and last year we seem to struggle coming out between the periods and that came back and bit us pretty hard tonight."
After both teams were penalized for roughing, Xavier took a 3-1 advantage with 7:15 left in the final period. Forward Andrew Meoli dropped the puck off to a cutting Gethings, who snapped a shot from the left faceoff circle inside the right post. Johnson knocked in a rebound 24 seconds later, putting Greenwich in a 4-1 hole.
"So many times the battle of the puck on the boards went their way," Russel said. "We have to squeeze the boards a bit tighter so the puck won't go through."
Despite the loss, there were some positives for the Cardinals, who dipped to 2-3-0. Xavier went 0-for-4 on the power play and felt Greenwich's aggression -- especially in the first period.
"We have yet to play a 45-minute game, which shows the potential we have because we're playing pretty well right now," Waesche said. "Today, we gave them a couple of bad bounces and they capitalized on it."
Said Gainey: "Greenwich was tough, they weren't afraid to mix it up. They will beat some good opponents this season."
XAVIER..................................................1 1 2 -- 4
GREENWICH...........................................1 0 0 -- 1
Goals: X -- Bryan Stanton, Ryan McLellan, Jack Gethings, Sean Johnson; G -- Brian Silard. Assists: X -- William Stanton, Bryan Stanton, Andrew Meoli, Dan Dupont, Jack Gethings. Goalies: X -- Shane Baldwin (11 saves); G -- Bryan Archino (27 saves).
Records: Xavier 5-2-0; Greenwich 2-3-0.