MILFORD -- The Notre Dame-Fairfield and Notre Dame-West Haven boys hockey teams entered Wednesday night's game heading in opposite directions. ND-Fairfield had won four of five games, while ND-West Haven had gone 1-3-1 over the same span. After the Lancers' impressive performance against the Green Knights, the gulf between the team's current level of play has become even wider. ND-Fairfield won 6-2 at Milford Ice Pavillion in a game that looked nothing like an upset.
The Lancers, who entered the game ranked seventh in the state, executed much better than the third-ranked Green Knights on both offense and defense. After taking a 2-1 lead early in the second period, ND-Fairfield moved the puck well offensively, while its zone defense kept ND-West Haven off balance.
"We played really well tonight," Lancers coach Steve Hetherman said. "That was one of our most complete games effort wise, and I'm very proud of this win."
"One word sums up how we played, and that's awful," Green Knights coach Tim Belcher said. "We played bad both offensively and defensively, and it's unacceptable for us to be executing so poorly this late in the season."
ND-Fairfield, which lost to ND-West Haven earlier in the season, improved to 10-4-1. The Green Knights fell to 11-5-1.
ND-West Haven did start the game off well, and opened up the scoring 8:48 into the first when Ryan Lynch beat Zak Bouve off a pass from Matt Dumas. However, ND-Fairfield continued to move the puck well, and managed to tie the game with 1:27 remaining in the first when Danny Walsh took a feed from Jonathan Suporn and rocketed the puck past Justin Daddio.
From that point forward, the Lancers set the tone of the final two periods. Their passing ability led to goals by Walsh and Craig Hessenius in the second period. Ryan Gawricki set up Walsh for his second goal of the night nearly four minutes into the second, and a pinpoint pass by Nick Carloto helped result in a slap shot from Hessenius that put ND-Fairfield up 3-1 midway through the second.
The Lancers defense helped maintain this two-goal lead throughout the period with their physicality and by deflecting shots. When the Green Knights broke free of the defense, Bouve made a number of impressive saves.
"We had wonderful defensive zone coverage and all our defenders showed extreme effort," Hetherman said. "They were able to do the little things, which is so important when you're playing zone."
ND-Fairfield continued to maintain momentum during the third, and went up 4-1 with 6:43 remaining on a goal by AJ Lucatino which was set up by Garrett Gintoli. After Colin O'Connor scored two minutes later off passes from Joe Biondi and Matt Dumas to make it 4-2, any hopes of a West Haven comeback were erased by goals from Gintoli and Carloto. Hessinius earned an assist on the first score.
Hetherman believes that the win was a culmination of all the lessons his players have learned this season.
"The boys were coming back to the bench tonight and saying, "Coach, that was just like this drill," he said. "Once they understand that what we do in practice has merit, it's wonderful to see."
Notre-Dame Fairfield 6, Notre-Dame West Haven 2
ND-WEST HAVEN 1 0 1--2
ND-FAIRFIELD 1 2 3--6
Records: ND-Fairfield 10-4-1; ND-West Haven 11-5-1. Goals: ND-WH Ryan Lynch, Colin O'Connor; NDF--Danny Walsh 2, Craig Hessenius, AJ Lucatino, Garrett Gintoli, Nick Carloto. Assists: ND-WH Matt Dumas 2, Joe Biondi; ND-F Jonathan Supron, Gintoli, Hessenius, Carloto, Gawricki. Goalies: ND-WH--Justin Daddio (31 saves); NDF--Zak Bouve (37). Shots: ND-WH 39; NDF 37.