BRIDGEPORT -- Moments after Ridgefield's one-goal lead disappeared in the third period Saturday afternoon at the Wonderland Of Ice, the Tigers escaped on a two-on-one break, a golden spot to reclaim the advantage.
But the shot that beat Fairfield Prep goalie Jack Taubl on the odd-man rush clanged off the cross bar, and not in. Within 15 seconds, as fate would have it, the Jesuits had the lead. Need a more forceful example of a swing in momentum?
Fairfield Prep added its third rapid-fire goal 23 seconds later for a 3-1 lead it protected, snapping Ridgefield's 11-game winning streak that began on Jan. 11. The Tigers, who lost to Prep 3-2 in the season-opener Dec. 18 in Ridgefield, fell to 14-4-0 overall. The Jesuits, on a 9-1-2 run since Dec. 27, improved to 10-3-2.
Sam Sarath, Ridgfield's leading goal scorer, converted a power play goal early in the second period for the game's only score until Ryan Deering took a feed from Mike Ventricelli and scored one second after a Ridgefield penalty expired 4 minutes and 53 seconds into the third period. Within a half-minute, the Tigers barely missed on the two-on-one.
At 5:33, Prep's leading goal scorer, Matt Wikman, broke in on a partial breakaway and produced the goal that gave the Jesuits a 2-1 lead. At 5:56, Ventricelli knocked in the rebound of a Vincent D'Amore shot for a 3-1 lead and the final goal of the non-conference game.
"That goal (Deering's) switched the momentum of the game," said Shaun Gallagher, whose Tigers have failed to beat Prep in his six years as their coach.
Prep coach Matt Sather said the pivotal play was the Ridgefield shot off the cross bar on the two on one. "Right off that, we scored," Sather said.
"They started skating better," Gallagher said of Prep after Deering's equalizing goal. "They are big, they are deep, they play the game the right way."
The first two periods were not so eventful until the Tigers' power play goal. Taubl made the most impressive save of the first period on close-in shot in the sixth minute. Prep had the puck in Ridgefield's end more often than the Tigers did in the Jesuits' zone but few of Prep's shots were high-quality.
"In the first period, we were pretty bad in our end," Sather said.
Ridgefield had more of the puck and better scoring opportunities in the second period, culminating in Sarath's goal a few seconds after Prep failed to clear the puck on a penalty kill. After that, Ridgefield could not maintain its edge and Prep began to unveil its standard game.
"Ridgefield is a top 10 team," Sather said. "At this time of the year, the teams are so close. We cannot give away a first period like we did and expect to win like we did."
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Fairfield Prep 3, Ridgefield 1
RIDGEFIELD 0 1 0--1
FAIRFIELD PREP 0 0 3--3
Records: Ridgefield 14-4-0; Fairfield Prep 10-3-2. Goals: R--Sam Sarath; FP--Ryan Deering, Matt Wikman, Mike Ventricelli. Assists: R--Paul Garlick; FP--Ventricelli, Vincent D'Amore. Goalies: R--Patrick Sheehan-Delany (24 saves); FP--Jack Taubl (14 saves). Shots: R--15; FP--27. Highlights: Ridgefield power play 1-for-1; Fairfield Prep power plays 0-for-3.