BRIDGEPORT -- As Fairfield Prep was making its way to the ice for the start of the third period Wednesday afternoon at the Wonderland Of Ice, the words of encouragement to each other included, "Let's put them away, boys."
The Jesuits could not quite close the deal despite leading by two goals.
Catholic Memorial High School, of West Roxbury, Mass., scored the only two goals of the third period to forge a 2-2 tie, erasing the Jesuits' 2-0 lead built on one goal in each of the first two periods. The Knights drew even thanks to Michael Stathopolous capitalizing on a Prep defensive mistake 1:13 into the third period, then on Aaron Clancy taking advantage of a giveway in the Jesuits' zone and beating Prep goalie Matt Beck with a powerful shot 51 seconds later.
No overtime was played because Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletic Association rules prohibit boys ice hockey teams from playing an extra period in out-of-state games unless they are participating in a tournament. This is part of a regular-season series played in Connecticut dating back more than 25 years according to longtime Catholic Memorial coach Bill Hanson.
The tie left Fairfield Prep's overall record at 10-3-3 and Catholic Memorial's at 9-5-4. Last year, when Prep won the CIAC Division I state tournament with a 23-1-0 record, the Jesuits' lone loss was to the Knights by 4-3 count on Feb. 20. Prep has won 15 state championships, Catholic Memorial 17 in Massachusetts.
"We don't score a lot of goals," said Hanson, whose team was averaging 2.91 goals scored per game entering Wednesday's contest. "In 15 of our 19 games, we've headed into the third period tied, down by a goal or down by two goals."
Hanson noted how Prep used eight forwards throughout the game, while he had the advantage of using all 13 of the Knights' forwards. "We were able to throw numbers at them. We're a high-energy team. It was going to be hard for them to keep that pace up."
The Jesuits had a shot to expand their 2-0 lead by firing three shots on goal in the first 42 seconds of the third period. But Catholic Memorial goalie Brandon Collett turned them all away. Then Prep had problems in its defensive zone soon after and its lead did not last long.
"Both team went up and down the ice, and there were a lot of momentum shifts," said Prep coach Matt Sather, who faced Catholic Memorial when he played for the Jesuits.
"There was pretty good goaltending. This was a game that was good to be a part of," Sather said. "It will make us better. It can remind us of what we are capable of doing. It can also punish you. They made a couple of mistakes early on that we capitalized on; we made a couple of mistakes later that they capitalized on. They put a lot of pressure on you with their speed."
Prep grabbed a 1-0 lead 39 seconds into the game when the Knights could not organize themselves on a scramble in front of Collett. Mike Ventricelli was credited with the goal, with assists by Burke Smith and Matt McKinney. On Prep's third and last shot on goal in the second period, Smith sent a pass back into the deep slot where Matt Wikman converted in traffic.
That goal came with 2:31 left in the period. The save of the game came 89 seconds earlier, with a one-goal margin, when Beck stopped a one-timer from 25 feet out that was blistered and destined for the near corner before he blocked it. "Our guy got all of it," Hanson said. "The shot did not hit their goalie. It was a save."
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Fairfield Prep 2, Catholic Memorial 2
CATHOLIC MEMORIAL 0 0 2--2
FAIRFIELD PREP 1 1 0--2
Records: Catholic Memorial 9-5-4; Fairfield Prep 10-3-3. Goals: CM--Michael Stathopolous, Aaron Clancy; FP--Mike Ventricelli, Matt Wikman. Assists: CM--Shane Dillon, Billy Czar; FP--Burke Smith 2, Matt McKinney, Ventricelli. Goalies: CM--Brandon Collett (19 saves); FP--Matt Beck (17). Shots: CM--19; FP--21.