Fairfield Prep's hockey team shook off the rust from a week-and-a-half hiatus between games and survived a scare from Xavier of Middletown to earn a hard-fought 4-3 overtime win at the Wonderland of Ice on Wednesday night in Bridgeport.
Freshman John Hoey put home a rebound of senior Steven Bayles's shot just 39 seconds into the eight-minute sudden-death OT period after Xavier battled back from 2-0 and 3-2 deficits to deadlock the score through regulation. Matt Wikman also earned an assist on the deciding tally as the Jesuits improved to 7-2-2 overall and Xavier fell to 4-8-0.
"I was there for the rebound," Hoey said, adding that it was nice to notch his third goal of the season in such a timely manner.
Hoey being in the right place at the right time was something Prep coach Matt Sather was pleased to see in a game marred by collective disorder on the ice by the Jesuits at times. Sather noted that his players were trying to do too much and thus created congestion and no space to move the puck into spots.
"I thought we had a great first five minutes of the game and things sort of fizzled," Sather said.
"We definitely didn't play up to our potential," Hoey said.
All three of Xavier's goals came on plays in which Prep goaltender Matt Beck didn't stand a chance to make the save, Sather said. "The goals they scored were on our bad breakdowns," he said. "Matt kept us in the game -- no question about it."
Beck made 24 saves, including several late in regulation, and one in the final couple of seconds, with the Falcons pressuring to end things in the third. Despite being stymied, Xavier coach Dan DeConti said taking Prep to OT speaks a lot about the character of his players.
"We played very well. All three of our lines played physical. They did what they had to do -- they put the puck on the net." DeConti said.
The Falcons fell behind on a first-period goal by Prep's John Quinn, assisted by Hoey and Michael Ventricelli. The Jesuits made it 2-0 on a second-period power play tally by William Overby, set up by Wikman. Xavier pulled to within a goal on an unassisted middle-period score by Bryan Stanton.
Xavier got the game even early in the third when Gordan Gurnell scored 1:29 into the stanza. Ventricelli was denied by Xavier goalie Ben Guidobono (32 saves) on consecutive shots in close not long after the Falcons evened the score.
Prep went back in front when Ventricelli redirected a blast from the point by Steven Bayles 5:13 into the third. Hoey earned the secondary assist.
Xavier drew even once again, within a minute later, when Dustin Braman got to a loose puck and slid it into a half-empty net following a scramble in the low slot.
"There's certainly no quit on their bench," Sather said of Xavier.
The Prep coach is hopeful there's no quit on the part of his team as the second half of the campaign unfolds. Sather said the team that wins the state title will be the one that improves the most the rest of the way. "We can't sit back and rest," Sather said.
Andy Hutchison is a freelance reporter