Loss doesn't derail co-op girls ice hockey team's strong start

The Fairfield co-op girls ice hockey team's strong start lost a little steam Monday afternoon with a 3-0 loss to the visiting Amity/Cheshire/North Haven co-op. Yet the snapping of Fairfield's mini-two-game unbeaten streak did not signal an end to its string of playing well.

The co-op of Fairfield Ludlowe and Fairfield Warde players have a 1-1-1 record, and coach Paul Kelly says the trend is building toward a season of improvement over 2012-13's final record of 6-11-0.

Fairfield beat Greenwich 4-0 in the season opener Dec. 11 before drawing with Notre Dame-Fairfield 1-1 on Dec. 13. The co-op skated on even terms with the Blades on Monday at the Wonderland of Ice, but broke down in coverage in front of its goal twice, then allowed a breakaway to the game's star player on the final goal.

The first half of the first period against Amity/Cheshire/North Haven was just about dominated by Fairfield. But it could not capitalize on its chances against Blades' freshman goaltender Hannah Cremo.

"They played quite well, too. They're a good team," Amity/Cheshire/North Haven coach Scott Whyte said. "When they were first out there, I thought it was going to be a tie or even a loss. Their first line was stronger than ours, then after that (second and third lines) we were evenly matched."

The Blades survived their rough start, then got a goal from Meaghan Francis in the first period and one from Bailey MacNamara in the second period, both from deep in the crease, before Kristen Whyte completed a breakaway on Fairfield goalie Phoebe Cascella with a shot between her hip and the near post in the third period. Fairfield went 0-for-4 on the power play.

Even though Fairfield's power play was unproductive, Kelly saw some positive signs from that unit. He was encouraged by the prospects of using three freshman players on the power play -- Courtney Sheetz, Anna Rasmussen and Paige Wikman. Kelly said he will try to develop a second power-play unit to complement the one used against Amity/Cheshire/North Haven.

"It's nice to know you can have a (power-play) group where you can move it around," Kelly said. "This was the first time (this season) that we were able to set up our power play. We're learning as we set up. When we get a shot, we've got to learn to go to the front of the net as opposed to staying in our power-play set up."

Fairfield will aim to create traffic in front of the opposition's goalie, Kelly said, and to be able to score some "ugly" goals. "We've got to get into that ugly-goal mentality," Kelly said. Though he believes his co-op has ample skill, Fairfield doesn't have such an abundance of it that it will simply outskate its opponents for a bushel of pretty goals.

Fairfield's fore checking was effective in the season opener against Greenwich. That marked the co-op's first ever win over the Cardinals. Assistant coach Milton Peckham, who is making a transition into retirement by not being at every Fairfield game, told the team it would be nice for him go out finally with a win over Greenwich.

"I think the closest we came to beating them was like a 2-1 loss to them here a couple of years ago," Kelly said. "This is going to be a nice sendoff for him."

Fairfield plays at Wilton -- the teams split two games in 2012-13 -- on Wednesday before a holiday break that will end with a rematch against Greenwich on Dec. 27 in Bridgeport.

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