Fairfield co-op boys ice hockey falls to Branford

Fairfield co-op boys ice hockey coach Mark Pettorini had a message for his team in the locker room after the first period of its game Saturday against Branford.

Though Fairfield held a 1-0 lead, Pettorini told his players that the next goal scored would be the most important of the game.

Pettorini was right. Branford took away Fairfield's momentum with a power play goal at 1:21 in the second period and went on to win 3-1.

The win left both teams with 1-1 records, and gave Hornets head coach Adolph Brink his first win against his former team. Last season, in his team's season opener at Wonderland of Ice, Branford lost to Fairfield 2-1.

But there was no time for Brink to celebrate: The two teams face off again Monday at Wonderland to cap off a home-and-home series.

"It's a great rivalry. These guys love playing Adolph, I love playing Adolph," said Pettorini, who took over the Fairfield team last season after Brink took the job in his home town. "We got one on them last year; they got one this year so next week we have the rubber match."

But Fairfield may home to get a little healthier, and come out of its offensive rut, in time for the rematch. Fairfield missed first-line sophomore Tom Kryspin, who hurt his wrist in practice on Dec. 16, and that caused some changes in its lines.

As a result, Fairfield was only able to skate two lines regularly, and needed its offense to get on track so its third line could get on the ice.

"For us to be successful, I need us to score some goals so I could get our third line in the mix," Pettorini said. "My two lines weren't putting the puck in the net so I couldn't give them a rest."

Meanwhile, Branford was able to skate three lines and wear Fairfield down.

"I think a lot of it has to do with conditioning, a few (Fairfield) guys said we were in better shape than they are," Brink said. "They have a bigger team, but we seemed to wear on them."

Fairfield led 1-0 after one period on a power-play goal from senior captain Chris Santello off a pass from Graeme Keleher.

But on the faceoff to start the second half, Santello went to the penalty box for tripping on the second-period faceoff, and that seemed to spark the Hornets.

Junior defenseman Nick Blake responded with a power play goal off a pass from Patrick Day to tie the game, and Branford pulled ahead at 9:11 in the second with a steal-and-score goal by junior forward Robert Celentano.

"Branford came out flying that second period," Pettorini said. "They had three lines going and they backed us into a corner."

Junior forward Austin Hackett added an empty netter with 18 seconds left to play.

Sophomore goalie Connor Frawley had 20 saves for Fairfield, while Branford's Thomas Delucia stopped 18 shots.

Brink felt his team was able to control the tempo for most of the game, and that helped his team win the game. But he also expects a completely

different game the

next time they meet Fairfield.

"Because it's so quick and early in the season, you're going to see two completely different teams perhaps," Brink said.

"No one's in their groove yet. It will be a good test for both of us and probably will be another one-goal game one way or the other."