BRIDGEPORT -- Shorthanded goals can be inconsequential in hockey if they come with a wide margin separating the teams or in the closing stages if it's slightly more competitive. But if they arrive when it's tied or with a one-goal difference, as was the case in an SCC/SWC game Saturday at the Wonderland Of Ice, it can be the difference maker.
Fairfield Prep's Matt Wikman completed his hat trick while visiting Notre Dame-Fairfield was on the power play and trailing by a goal. Wikman converted a short feed across the goal mouth from Ken Kochiss, who had stolen the puck, and the Jesuits re-opened a two-goal lead in a 6-3 victory on Wikman's shorthander.
Wikman's goal made it 5-3 and Steven Bayles, who assisted on Wikman's goal that gave the Jesuits a 3-0 lead in the first period, scored the only goal of the third period for the 6-3 final. Prep, rated No. 3 in the latest statewide poll, improved to 9-3-2 overall. No. 5 Notre Dame, which lost to Prep 5-2 on Jan. 9, dropped to 7-4-1 overall. The Lancers had gone 4-0-1 since that loss to the Jesuits nearly a month ago.
Prep opened a 4-0 lead in the first period. The Lancers stormed back to trail 4-3 and had the momentum when a Jesuits' player was called for a penalty. Nearly a minute into the penalty kill, on the Lancers' first power play of the game, Kochiss stripped the puck and found a wide open Wikman right in front of Notre Dame goalie Zach Bouve. Bouve replaced starter Justin Krochko after it was 4-0.
"That was a pretty big goal," Wikman said. "I thought the momentum was starting to shift in their favor. After that shorthanded goal, it started shifting back to us."
Notre Dame coach Steve Hetherman said: "You cannot give up a shorthanded goal. I think that was a deflating moment. It's all about maintaining that positive attitude. Coaches like to talk about momentum, but it's really about attitude. When you have a positive attitude, the sky's the limit."
In a span of two minutes and six seconds, Notre Dame knocked three goals past Prep goalie Matt Beck early in the second period. The first two came when the Jesuits' defense could not clear free pucks near the goal mouth. The third came on a two-on-one with Nick Carloto, who got the Lancers' first goal, feeding Jonny Suporn. But Notre Dame's charge back unraveled after Wikman's goal.
The Lancers had three power plays after it was 5-3 but did not generate many dangerous chances for Prep to withstand.
"I think that goal (shorthanded) was a nice calming moment for us," Prep coach Matt Sather said. "We were standing around watching at the start of the second period. After our success in the first period, we felt a little entitled. Notre Dame is a good, prideful team. When you stand around, it's going to remind you that you're not so good.
"Sometimes when you are a young team, you can forget that real fast. It was a good lesson for all of us," Sather said.
After the second period, Sather reminded the Jesuits what they had to do, and they responded to his satisfaction in the third.
"They returned to what had gotten them in trouble in first period," Hetherman said of the Lancers after Wikman's shorthander.
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Fairfield Prep 6, Notre Dame-Fairfield 3
NOTRE DAME 0 3 0--3
FAIRFIELD PREP 4 1 1--6
Records: Notre Dame 7-4-1; Fairfield Prep 9-3-2. Goals: ND--Nick Carloto, Craig Hessenius, Jonny Suporn; FP--Matt Wikman 3, Steve Bayles, Ryan Deering, Bryan Connell. Assists: ND--Justin Dupuis, Mark Russo, Carloto; FP--William Schlichtig 2, Ken Kochiss 2, William Overby, Bayles, Wikman. Goalies: ND--Justin Krochko (8 saves), Zach Bouve (14); FP--Matt Beck (19). Shots: ND--22; FP--28.