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Wednesday, January 17 High School Sports

Short-handed goal sparks Fairfield Prep past ND-West Haven

BRIDGEPORT — One little breakdown on the penalty kill might have turned this hockey game in Notre Dame-West Haven’s favor, but Fairfield Prep’s Devin Blanchette stepped in to make it a turning point for the Jesuits.

After breaking up a left-to-right pass, Blanchette moments later started a short-handed rush that turned into the first goal of the top-ranked Jesuits’ 3-1 win Saturday at the Wonderland of Ice.

“I happened to be in the right spot to grab that pass,” Blanchette said. “When I started down, at first I didn’t realize I had anybody. Then I heard Bella, ‘I’m with you, Dev.’”

Blanchette dropped it to Colin Bella to score that short-handed goal with 1:27 left in the second period, and Joe Mancini added a goal 30 seconds later off Ryan Eckert’s setup to give the Jesuits a 2-0 lead in an entertaining, hard-working game.

“I thought we played really well. The effort was definitely there,” Notre Dame coach Tim Belcher said.

“I thought the difference was we each had chances, but they capitalized and we didn’t. We had some great chances in the first, the second, all three periods, really.”

The fourth-ranked Green Knights (4-2) got one back early in the third, Michael Ansaldo’s goal from Devin Napoli. But Skyler Celotto buried a loose puck in front of the net late to finish it off and improve the Jesuits to 7-0.

“I thought the first period was them, the second period was us and the third period was pretty even,” Jesuits coach Matt Sather said. “It was an up-and-down game. A nice job by our keeper and some timely goals.”

Jack McGee made 30 saves in victory, making a couple of big stops on a power play in the middle of the second period.

T.J. Hunt’s floating backhander beat him but caught the crossbar not long before Ansaldo’s goal; McGee stopped freshman Kyle Stober point-blank a few minutes later and laid out to cover the puck.

The Jesuits won three games in Rhode Island to win the Mount Saint Charles Holiday Faceoff, but their first three in-state games were all easy wins by a combined 20-4.

This was competitive start to finish.

“We’ve got to start better,” Blanchette said. “We came out a little flat. We’ve got to have stronger starts. We’ve been finishing strong, (but) some team could pop in a couple early, and then we’re coming from behind.”

PLAYER OF THE GAME

Devin Blanchette turned play the other way on the penalty kill to get the scoring started. He couldn’t get all of Kevin Oricoli’s setup in the third but got an assist when Skyler Celotto finished the play.

FIRST THIRD

A third of the way through the regular season, Sather sees his young defensemen coming along, moving the puck better than they did at the start.

“We’ve been, really, a different-guy-every-night team,” Sather said. “We’ve had multiple guys step up. It’s not really one guy, other than McGee.”

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Belcher has liked the job the Green Knights have done defensively and the goaltending that senior Brendan Crowley has given them of late.

“We need to focus on finishing plays down low when we have chances,” Belcher said. “Hopefully that comes with time, but it also comes with practice.”

WORKING BACK

Carter Kral, the Jesuits’ leading returning scorer, dressed but didn’t play, working back from a broken ankle. Sather said the senior might be about a week or two away.

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NOTRE DAME-WEST HAVEN0 0 1—1

FAIRFIELD PREP0 2 1—3

Records: Notre Dame-West Haven 4-2; Fairfield Prep 7-0. Goals: NDWH—Michael Ansaldo; FP—Colin Bella, Joe Mancini, Skyler Celotto; Assists: NDWH—Devin Napoli; FP—Devin Blanchette 2, Ryan Eckert, Kevin Oricoli; Goalies: NDWH—Brendan Crowley (25 saves); FP—Jack McGee (30); Shots: NDWH—31; FP—28

Michael Fornabaio|Sports Reporter

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