The fact that the Stamford/Westhill/Staples girls ice hockey team has even an outside shot to make the state tournament this late in the season is a testament to how far the co-op has come in its short existence.
Stamford's postseason hopes were kept alive with three games left in the regular season behind an all-around team effort Wednesday.
Meg Fay scored twice and Rachel Stanford added an empty-net tally with 42 seconds left as Stamford/Westhill/Staples held off Notre Dame-Fairfield 4-2 on Senior Night at Terry Conners Rink. The win was the second over the Lancers this season and improved Stamford's record to 6-9.
"It feels good," Stamford coach Eli Williams said of his team's record. "The girls have come a long way; it's a credit to those that came here previously, and the coaching staff has been phenomenal. With those two things and girls that work hard good things can happen."
Because of injuries to the defensive core, Stamford moved Staples' Meg Fay to defense roughly halfway during the season and the talented goal scorer hasn't missed a beat.
"We had a bunch of injuries to our defense that depleted us," Williams said. "(Fay) sees the ice very well, she's smart, and when you take those two things and can skate like the wind good things are going to happen."
As a result of switching to defense, Fay can stay on the ice longer and have an even greater impact on the team.
"It's definitely less skating, sometimes I bring the puck up for us, but it's been good. I like every position," Fay said.
After the teams traded goals in the first period, Stamford took control of the game in the second. Fay scored two goals five minutes apart in virtually the same manner; carrying the puck past the entire Lancers defense before crashing the net on her own shot to poke home the rebound.
The Lancers dominated most of the third period in an attempt to get back into the game. Notre Dame outshot the hosts 13-5, attacking Stamford goalie Casey Bang (23 saves) at every angle.
"A lot of things weren't going our way," Notre Dame assistant Jennifer Schell said. "We weren't getting shots off, we didn't have our heads in the game to start, we were worried about their senior night and we weren't focused on what we needed to get done. We stepped up big in the third period like we wanted to."
Lancers forward Jasmine Gaudreau scored with 2:42 left to cut the deficit to 3-2, but Stamford held firm and didn't allow another quality chance on goal. The visitors pulled the goalie with a minute left and moments later Stanford netted the game-clincher.
"We didn't give up," Williams said. "We stayed confident during the whole thing, we had a little lull and the girls just kept going."
Notre Dame (5-10-2) has two games left on its schedule, both against West Haven.
"We definitely wanted to get this one because they had beat us (3-2 Dec. 30)," Schell said. "We have two games against West Haven; on their senior night (Feb. 14) and on ours (Feb. 19), so hopefully they are two wins."