Fairfield Prep wants to peak at the right time
BRIDGEPORT — At the midway point of the regular season, the Fairfield Prep hockey team finds itself in a relatively usual position — the bottom third of the Division I playoff rankings. Fairfield Prep’s record is 3-6, pending Wednesday’s game with Xavier.
The Jesuits position in the standings is a somewhat of a red herring.
For one, there are fewer than 16 teams playing Division I this season meaning all teams should qualify, save for NFI which opted out. More importantly Prep has played its traditionally challenging non-league schedule, meaning coach Matt Sather isn’t too hung up on his team’s record.
“You want to peak at the right time. We’re getting toward the halfway point of the season and you’d like to see some more consistent building,” Sather said last week after a 4-3 overtime loss to Darien at the Wonderland of Ice. “No matter what your record, you’re building to March.”
The loss to the Blue Wave continued a concerning trend for the Jesuits, the defending Division I champions. Prep fell to 1-4 in one-goal games and is 0-3 in overtime.
“Our record isn’t where we want it to be, but in the locker room I feel we’re taking steps,” captain Calyb Reeves said. “We have to figure out how to put together a complete game. Not to play 35 minutes or 25, but the full 45.”
Prep completed is bye week earlier this month, so the rest of its season falls into a more-consistent Wednesday/Saturday pattern, akin to the postseason. It also means enough time has elapsed that the current Jesuits can distance themselves from last year’s squad that graduated 13 players and earned the No. 1 seed in Division I.
“We’re getting to the point of the year now where roles that were all new to people — being a captain or being a senior — they should be settling in and getting excited for that,” Sather said. “You’re here, you’ve got a role and you should know what that role is and settling into it and challenging for a better one. You should be doing that every day. We’re getting there, but a little slower than we like.”
Sather pointed to the reliable play of senior goalie Jake Walker as something the Jesuits can build around. Sophomore Mason Whitney has stepped up into a more-prominent role within the offense, while senior Peter DiDomenico’s made a seamless transition from forward to defense.
With 17 CIAC state titles to their name, few programs across any sport in Connecticut have the tradition of Fairfield Prep hockey. The Jesuits always get the best effort from the opponents and that was part of the reason Blue Wave players and traveling fans celebrated their overtime victory so wildly.
“We know every time we play a team, we know we’ll get the best version of them because playing Fairfield Prep is every team’s biggest game of the year,” Reeves said. “We wouldn’t have it any other way. We want their best version. That’s why kids come to this school for the competition.”
By the same token, when the Division I state tournament rolls around whatever seed Prep ends up earning will mostly be irrelevant. The name-value and history of Prep continues to carry weight and knocking the Jesuits out of the playoffs won’t come easy.
“You know you’ll get everybody’s best. Steel sharpens steel,” Sather said. “I feel we have as good a shot as anyone as being a contender, but we definitely have some confidence things we need to iron out.”