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Tuesday, April 24 Sports

Fairfield Prep holds off Glastonbury to gain Division I hockey semifinals

WEST HAVEN -- The reigning Division I champions aren't ready to head home just yet.

No. 3 seeded Fairfield Prep withstood a late surge from No. 6 Glastonbury and advanced to the state semifinals with a 4-3 victory Saturday afternoon at Bennett Rink. Four different Jesuits scored to lift Prep to its fifth straight semifinal, where it will now face No. 2 Notre Dame-West Haven Wednesday night at Ingalls Rink in New Haven.

With Fairfield Prep leading 4-2, Patrick Conley cut the Tomahawks' deficit to one with 1:19 left, but Glastonbury couldn't strike again in its season-ending loss.

"Guys were trying to do too much, as opposed to playing within the system that we have set up for that situation," Fairfield Prep coach Matt Sather said of the game's final moments. "We certainly did that when they scored, but I thought we settled in and did a nice job in the last minute there."

Leading 3-2 in the infancy of the third period, Prep's Michael Ventricelli recorded the eventual game-winner in front on an assist from Justin Blanchette. As the Jesuit coaches called for a needed line change, Blanchette maintained possession deep into the Tomahawks' zone while his teammates exited. Standing behind the net, he evaded defensive pressure and flipped the puck to the newly entered Ventricelli, who then deposited it top-shelf.

Fairfield Prep scored in each stanza, including an explosive second period where it registered three goals in a 38-second span. Glastonbury began the rapid scoring less than four minutes into the middle frame with a tying answer to its 1-0 deficit from Adam Yaeger. Standing one foot outside the doorstep, Yaeger deflected a Carter Henderson blast from the left point into the Jesuit net, causing the Tomahawk bench to erupt.

The celebration, however, was short-lived.

Prep captain Matt Wikman then scored immediately off a feed across the low slot from Dean Lockery to push his team's edge back to one. But, the lead vanished 10 seconds later, when Glastonbury knotted the score at two via a Jack Pizzo goal, set up beautifully by Shane Mack.

"They came out and surprised us," Lockery said. "Some of the teams they've played throughout the year were D-2, D-3 teams, so we didn't really know a lot about them. Coach came in after the second period said it would be a 3-0 game if we weren't so cocky."

The Jesuits at last staked a permanent advantage during four-on-four play near the end of the second period. Taking control of a batted puck up the right boards, Billy Overby swung possession over to Brendan Killoy at the near post. Killoy, facing away from the net, back-handed a pass to the bottom of the left circle, where a waiting Lockery slapped it home.

As the frame closed, Yaeger orchestrated a final Glastonbury breakaway with Conley, who gained full puck control all alone at the high slot. Prep goaltender Chris Gutierrez denied Conley's scoring chance, arguably the Tomahawks' best all game, and preserved the 3-2 lead.

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"Our mindset was to be patient," Glastonbury coach Ken Barse said. "We knew we would get out-shot. But we wanted to be patient, take our opportunities and make the best of them."

Gutierrez snared 25 pucks on a day when his terrific performance was not accurately reflected by the stat sheet.

"All three goals were backdoor goals," Sather said. "We had defensive breakdowns and there was nothing he could do about them."

Fairfield Prep's Matt McKinney scored shorthanded at the end of the first period, taking a loose puck all the way from inside his blue line to the opposite net.

The Jesuits are now unbeaten in seven of their last eight games, outscoring opponents 33-19.



Division I quarterfinals



Records: Glastonbury 16-6, Fairfield Prep 14-4-3. Goals: G--Adam Yaeger, Jack Pizzo, Patrick Conley; FP-- Matt McKinney, Matt Wikman, Dean Lockery, Michael Ventricelli. Assists: G--Carter Henderson, Shane Mack; FP--Lockery, Billy Overby, Brendan Killoy, Justin Blanchette, Tyler MacLean, Logan Underwood. Goalies: G--Kyle Thibodeaux (38 saves); FP--Chris Gutierrez (25). Shots: G--28; FP--42.