Prep hockey team state champion again
The referee's arm went up to send Kevin Brown to the penalty box in the third period of a tie game in the CIAC Division I final. The feeling, Fairfield Prep coach Matt Sather said, was "bittersweet" in a way.
"As a coach, you've been through it a lot," Sather said, "you say `this isn't good, but at the same time, if we kill it, the momentum shift will be big.'"
The shift was huge, and the Jesuits are state champions in boys hockey for the 15th time, the 14th in Division I.
The top-seeded Jesuits killed the penalty, and on a rebound 11 seconds later, Matt Wikman scored the winner in a 3-2 victory Tuesday over No. 2 Notre Dame-West Haven at Ingalls in New Haven.
Jesuits junior Dean Lockery pulled a puck out of the slot in his own zone just before the penalty expired, starting the rush. Senior captain David White, who finished his four years with 150 points, carried the puck into the zone and beat a couple of defenders as Lockery went to the right post.
"Dave did his thing, dangling," said Wikman, a junior. "He put one out front for Dean, he hit the post, and it came right out to me."
With 6:26 left, the goal sent half of sold-out Ingalls Rink into hysterics and left the other half subdued. Though the Green Knights' Paul Sliwinski made big save after big save, so did Fairfield Prep's Matt Beck to preserve the lead.
"God bless 'em," Notre Dame coach Bill Gerosa said. "They beat us four times this year, they deserve to win. I really enjoyed this game, the whole game. It was a terrific game. The crowd was into it."
Fairfield Prep (23-1) won its eighth state title since 2000 (four of them over Notre Dame in the final), going 18-0 against Connecticut opponents this year. The 2006-07 Jesuits went 17-0-1 (the tie at Hamden) in-state on the way to a championship.
"To log that time, they were awesome," Sather said.
The defending champions finished 18-6-1.
"We lost four or five good players, but we were able to regroup," Gerosa said. "We just came up a goal short today. I'm very, very proud of my boys."
The Green Knights took a 2-0 lead on goals 83 seconds apart in the first period, junior defenseman Lou Iannotti from above the left circle at 7:34, then Billy Vizzo at 8:57, coming out from Beck's right into the left circle and snapping a shot inside the left post.
Wikman said the team was confident in the adjustments it made. He began the comeback, deflecting in Henry's point shot on the power play with 2:29 left in the period.
"Being able to come back is a tribute to good teams," Gerosa said. "Fairfield Prep is a good team."
Jesuits sophomore Mike Ventricelli tied the game on a two-on-one at 3:02 of the second. That set up an intense, instant-classic third period between the state's two best teams, decided by a penalty kill and its aftermath.
"For (the players), it's something they'll always remember," Sather said.
"A lot of guys sacrificed a lot. They bought into a school and a program."
That school hasn't graduated a class without at least one state hockey championship since 1990. That streak will continue until at least 2017.
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ND-WEST HAVEN 2 0 0--2
FAIRFIELD PREP 1 1 1--3
Records: Notre Dame-West Haven 18-6-1; Fairfield Prep 23-1 Goals: ND--Lou Iannotti, Bill Vizzo; FP--Matt Wikman 2, Mike Ventricelli; Assists: ND--Jesse Ruocco, Matt Dostie; FP--David White 2, Sean Henry, Tim Edmonds, Dean Lockery; Goalies: ND--Paul Sliwinski (28 saves); FP--Matt Beck (20); Shots: ND--22; FP--31