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Pickens' Perspective: Thanks to Denbok, ND's looking scary

Published 3:03 pm, Thursday, January 17, 2013
  • Notre Dame Fairfield goalie Stone Denbok maves a save against Fairfield Prep. Denbok's stopped 60 of 64 shots he's faced in two upset wins this week. Photo: Mike Ross / @www.mikerossphoto.com
    Notre Dame Fairfield goalie Stone Denbok maves a save against Fairfield Prep. Denbok's stopped 60 of 64 shots he's faced in two upset wins this week. Photo: Mike Ross

 

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To say the ND-Fairfield hockey team was overshadowed this week by a larger, more-seedy story out of South Bend, Ind. would not be an understatement.

Still, the Lancers would like to prove their impressive 2-0 week-- over two of the state's best-- is no hoax.

ND, thanks to some stellar goaltending, some scrappy offense and a little hard work, knocked off two of the state's best this week.

"Our boys are learning how to play as a team," Lancers coach Steve Heatherman said Wednesday night. "They work hard, and that's the key ingredient. If you work hard, you can play with any team in this state."

The Lancers, who were 1-5 and being discarded by many a state hockey pundit, are now 3-5, and very much alive in the state tournament hunt.

"When they stick to the system ... it's nice to watch," Heatherman said "But for the first six games, we didn't want to watch anything."

Thanks to Stone Denbok -- a veritable stone wall -- ND is back. The junior netminder -- who moved to Trumbull from Oakville, Ontario -- admitted Wednesday that the beginning of this season was troubling to him but that he's turned it around.

"This is the level I expect to play at every game," Denbok said. "I started off pretty slow, but I want to keep it like this, at a high intensity."

And not a moment too soon either.

It's not like ND was beating patsies, either. The Lancers shocked two of the state's elite. I wasn't in attendance Saturday, but it seems as though ND played a near-flawless road game in its 2-1 win over ND-West Haven.

Then ND did nearly the same for two periods on Wednesday at Hamden: let your goalie bail you out early, score a few goals to take the lead then lean on your defense and netminder to do the rest.

The result was a 6-3 win over Hamden.

"Two nice wins," Heatherman said. "[Wednesday] validate[s] ND-West Haven, so it wasn't the proverbial fluke."

In hockey, the better team doesn't win every night. With these wins, ND gains the confidence that it can win on nights when it isn't the better team. Now it just has to prove it can win when it's a favorite.

Don't look now, but ND-Fairfield's looking like a scary team to face come next month's tournament.

ppickens@bcnnew.com; twitter.com/Pat_Pickens

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