Fairfield co-op ice hockey's state hopes dashed by East Haven

Senior night -- when seniors are honored before their final home game -- is supposed to be memorable in a positive way.

But the seniors on the Fairfield co-op boys ice hockey team may want to have their final game at Wonderland of Ice erased from their memories.

A 6-2 loss to East Haven on Friday meant that for the first time in their high school careers, the Fairfield skaters would not play in the postseason.

Fairfield needed eight wins -- or seven wins and two ties -- to reach the CIAC Division II tournament. The loss to East Haven, a Division I team, put that goal out of reach.

"We needed two wins and a tie to officially get in, now we're playing for pride," said Fairfield first-year head coach Mark Pettorini after the game. "We're going to go into Wilton and work hard and end it against a big rival in Trumbull and hopefully come out of it with our heads up."

But with the pressure off Fairfield against Wilton on Saturday at Winter Garden Rink in Ridgefield, the team's slide continued with an 8-3 loss to the Warriors.

Fairfield enters its season finale tonight against Trumbull at The Rinks at Shelton with an overall record of 5-13-1.

The team's weaknesses were exploited by East Haven: the Yellowjackets were able to wear down Fairfield with its depth, and Fairfield's goaltending -- which had shined at times this season -- was suspect.

"We were going three lines so we wore them down a little bit," East Haven head coach Louis Pane said. "We wanted to take the game into the third period because we scouted them a few times and saw that they'd lose a step in the third period."

East Haven got off to a quick lead on goals by Andrew Hamilton and Brandon Cain just :55 apart midway through the first period.

A slap shot by Graeme Keleher at 13:34 in the first period, off a pass from Chris Santello, put Fairifled on the board.

Fairfield was unable to capitalize on what happened next: two East Haven players were sent to the box for penalties at 13:58 in the first, which gave Fairfield a two-man advantage that would carry into the second period.

But Fairfield was unable to convert on the power play.

East Haven made it 3-1 when Hamilton beat Fairfield freshman goaltender Robert Ficarra for his second goal of the night.

Fairfield answered back just 18 seconds later when Henry Simonds scored off a steal.

But in the third period, Fairfield was no match for the deeper East Haven squad.

Matt Barcomb put back a shot by Ben Kuzma after Ficarra lost control of the puck after a glove save at 1:47. Barcomb added his second goal of the night during a Fairfield power play, when he stole the puck off a stick at center ice and beat Ficarra one-on-one.

Kevin Randall capped the scoring with a goal in the closing seconds of the game.

But Pane was impressed with Fairfield, who he thought would be a tough opponent based on last season's 2-0 Fairfield win over East Haven and this year's tie against Branford, a team Fairfield beat handily back in December.

"I thought they had five or six real skilled guys and that kept them in the game," Pane said.

Meanwhile, the loss left Pettorini wondering what could have been this season, and hoping his team could end the season on a strong note.

"It's the same thing we've been battling all season, goals at the wrong time taking the wind out of our sails, still not being able to put the puck on the net," Pettorini said. "We come out in the second period with a power play and they ended up killing it and popping one in themselves two minutes after that. It's tough to come out of a two-goal deficit."