Pickens' Perspective: Fairfield Prep hockey season ends in failure because of lack of hard work
It was a season of sustained excellence, it was a season of dominance.
Ultimately, however, it was a disappointing season.
That's what happens when you set the bar so high like Fairfield Prep hockey does. The Jesuits will point to things that they didn't do in their 6-5 state championship loss on Saturday at Hamden rather than what Hamden did do.
But what Hamden did was expose what was evident all along. That this Prep hockey team wasn't willing to work hard enough to be champions.
Prep Head Coach Matt Sather had preached to anyone who would listen that his team wasn't working hard enough. He said that Hamden outworked them in the Jesuits 4-1 win over the Green Dragons on Feb. 24. He was worried in the opening round win over Trinity Catholic about the Jesuits' nerves and said that Prep was outworked in its semifinal win over New Canaan as well.
Prep was undoubtedly the most talented team in the state this year. The Jesuits kept winning games even without its best player, Darric White. They won a state semifinal game without arguably the best defenseman in the state, Jackson Bargiello, against a very game New Canaan team.
But there were apparent lapses. The Jan. 20 loss to West Haven made Prep look beatable. I'm sure Hamden was salivating at a third chance at beating the Jesuits, especially Green Dragons' goalie Ryan Amarone, who was pulled the last time the teams met.
Hamden appeared to be the hungrier team the entire game. Sure, Prep had chances, and Amarone kept Hamden alive, stopping 33 shots. But all day, Hamden had the better of the chances.
Despite 10 power plays in the game, and a questionable call that put Hamden on the power play late in the third that the Green Dragons ultimately scored on, Prep just didn't earn a victory on Saturday. The Jesuits were probably fortunate to be in the game at all in the third. Three of Prep's five goals came with a man power advantage, and the Jesuits' fifth goal was definitely on Amarone.
Prep wasn't opportunistic or smart either on Saturday. Lucas Dennison took four penalties, including a critical unsportsmanlike conduct penalty that put Hamden on a 5-on-3 for a full two minutes. Prep had a four minute power play when CJ Carignan took a double-minor for charging, but could not take advantage.
Still, at one point it looked as though Prep would break Hamden's heart yet again. The Green Dragons blew five different leads in the game, including one with just 4:12 left in the game. But being the harder working team paid off for Hamden.
"I thought in our end Hamden did a great job," Sather said. "They had the better of the physical play in our end."
It's a shame too, because some of Prep's players did work hard. White had two goals, and had screened Amarone on Tom Worsfold's power play tally in the third.
"I'd give those goals back to be a state champion," White said. "There's nothing like winning a state championship."
In one game, upsets can happen, especially in a sport like hockey, especially when the game involves a pair of arch rivals. Prep handled the Green Dragons twice prior because of talent. In a state championship game, you probably aren't going to win on talent alone.
Being the most talented team got Prep to the finals, but the Jesuits won't win a medal for that. They won't have the memory of hoisting a state championship trophy, they'll just have the memory of falling in a classic game at Ingalls Rink in March of 2010.
And that makes this year a failure for them.