Fairfield boys ice hockey falls to St. Joseph
A 4-2 loss Saturday to FCIAC front-runner St. Joseph dropped Fairfield to 3-7-1 on the season, and means Fairfield needs five wins over its final nine games to return to the postseason.
But if the on-ice intensity shown against St. Joseph was any indication, Fairfield understands it needs to make up for lost opportunities to salvage its season.
"We're running out of games and we wanted to get a win in this one," senior assistant captain Sean Kittredge said.
Fairfield managed three shots while playing shorthanded, only to see them get stopped by hot Cadets goaltender Zach Carrano.
Fairfield also showed it is not afraid to play a physical game. At the close of the second period, defenseman Brian Underkofler leveled St. Joseph puck-handler Christian Keator with a check that knocked the skater out of the game with a knee injury.
"We're getting desperate, we're running out of games and we need to get our eight wins," Fairfield Head Coach Mark Pettorini said. "They know they're going to have to knock off a Division I team like East Haven or Darien or Greenwich to get that, so they are desperate. It's a good thing because I know they're going to give me everything, but the clock is ticking."
off a pass from Pat Corcoran.
Brian Kelly made it 2-0 at 5:59 in the second with a score on a faceoff in front of the Fairfield net. The goal came less than a minute after Carrano made a pair of saves on breakaways by Fairfield center Chris Santello.
On the first of those two saves, Carrano made an all-out dive and made a glove save off of Santello's stick.
"He made one of the best high school saves I've seen in a long while on that breakaway," Pettorini said. "We shot the puck, they just weren't going our way."
The Kelly goal gave St. Joseph a bit of momentum and 1:10 later, Corcoran redirected a shot by Morrissey past Cooney for a 3-0 lead.
Fairfield found its way on the board in the final tick of a 4-on-3 power play. Santello took a shot parallel to the goal from about 30 feet away that went off Carrano's skate and into the net. That cut the St. Joseph lead to 3-1 at 10:43 in the second.
Just 15 seconds after Underkofler's check on Keator, and with 15 seconds left in the second period, Kelly put back his own shot and beat a sprawled-out Keator to make the game 4-1.
Fairfield cut the lead to 4-2 with 7:18 left in the game when Henry Simonds put back a shot by Kittredge. Kittredge set up the score when he stole the puck off a St. Joseph
stick at the Fairfield blue line.
Fairfield had a unique opportunity to take the game over in the final minutes when St. Joseph committed three penalties in less than two minutes. It meant that from 11:51 to 13:51, Fairfield would have a 5-on-3 advantage, and a one-player advantage until 14:32. But the St. Joseph defense was able to screen Fairfield from taking any outside shots, and jammed the inside to keep Fairfield skaters away from Carrano.
St. Joseph, with the win, improved to 9-2-1 on the season. But assistant coach Jim Lafo said he felt Fairfield looked much more aggressive than what he'd seen on film, and that his team may have not held on for the win if it hadn't been coming off a five-day layoff.
"They are very well coached, they were dumping the puck and pressuring our defense," Lafo said. "Our guys are a little fresh, and I think that helped us."
Lafo said he was also impressed with Fairfield's goaltending, which has been considered the team's weak spot.
"We're young in the net, Cooney is a senior but he's only been in goal for four years," Pettorini said. "That's a spot where we're struggling a little bit. The way it transitions a little bit, it kind of kills us and takes the wind out of our sails."
Fairfield opened the season with freshman Robert Ficarra in the net, but has been using both Ficarra and Cooney, an inexperienced senior who played sparingly behind former All-FCIAC goalie Dan O'Rourke, depending on which one has the hot hand.
"Right now we're kind of flip-flopping," Pettorini said. "I'm going to play whoever is going to give us the best effort in practice. Rob's been playing real well, but if he has a bad game I'll put Cooney back in. So we're kind of day to day with the goaltending."