— Mike Madera (@MikeMadera2) February 13, 2017
WEST HAVEN >> There is something to be said about being the top team in the state. Just ask the Ridgefield hockey team.
Facing the competition’s best night in and night out, the Tigers have prepared for life at the top. Monday evening in West Haven was a perfect example of what life as the hunted is like.
With three goals in the final five minutes of regulation, two by Notre Dame-West Haven to force overtime, Ridgefield used an overtime goal by Jeff Pracella to defeat the Green Knights 6-5 in a Division I contest at the Edward L. Bennett Rink in West Haven Monday evening.
“We just responded to our opportunities,” Ridgefield coach Shaun Gallagher said. “We had some early chances and took a 3-0 lead. I thought it was a good effort, but it was a good effort by them too. They responded well. I thought both teams gave a great effort.”
With the Tigers on top 4-3, Notre Dame evened the game at four with 1 minute, 51 seconds remaining in the third as Greg Caturano scored his second goal of the game off the faceoff in the Ridgefield zone.
The celebration by Notre Dame was short-lived as Pracella put his team on top 5-4 with a shot in front off an assist from Harrison Chuma with 57.6 seconds left in regulation. The fireworks were not done as Michael Bencivengo set up Vin Paolillo with the equalizer 24 seconds later.
“I was happy with the way we battled in the third period,” Notre Dame coach Tim Belcher said. “That is four straight one-goal games we have played in. They have been big tests for us. Although we are a little under .500 (1-2-1) in those games, I am happy with the way we have battled.”
Pracella did not waste any time in the overtime session as he needed just 18 seconds to roof a shot past Notre Dame goaltender Brendan Crowley, who replaced starter Liam Connell in goal after the opening period.
“We just tried to forget about the goal and knew we had to get another one,” Pracella said. “We just kept on going. This was an imporrtant win for us. We beat them last time and we knew they were coming out to beat us.”
Said Gallagher, “Those were two great shots by him (Pracella). If he gets a chance, he is going to put them in. Both shots were into very small spaces.”
The Tigers, ranked first in the Register/GameTimeCT Top 10 poll, came out flying in the contest, scoring twice in the first five minutes of the game, and adding a late goal in the opening period for a 3-0 advantage.
“The effort was great,” Belcher said. “I am disappointed in the first period. To outshoot them the way we did and to be down 3-0 is unacceptable. We need to take better control of the puck.”
The fifth-ranked Green Knights (9-7-1), looking to get into a groove, did not have much success despite holding an 11-6 shot advantage in the opening period.†
Ridgefield (17-1-0) scored twice in less than two minutes to take an early lead as Andrew Tregurtha scored off assists from Steven Signorelli and Liam Galloway 2:44 seconds into the contest, and William Forrest followed with another goal off an assist from Jonas Chang 1:47 later for a 2-0 lead.
The Green Knights applied the pressure after Forrest’s goal, but Ridgefield goaltender Sean Keegans came up with a trio of big saves, denying Hunter Krasnow in front, Ian Hayden in front with a pad save, and Matt Muro off the wing with a glove save within a span of 1:33.
The work of Keegans proved beneficial to the Tigers as they expanded on their lead a short time later. Following a blocked shot, John Stafford went the length of the ice up the left wing, cut to the middle and ripped a wrist shot past Connell with 3:10 left in the opening period for a 3-0 Notre Dame lead.
Forrest and Pracella led the Tigers with two goals apiece, while Nicolas Cullinan and Ty Fujitani each added a pair of assists. Caturano had two goals for the Green Knights, while Krasnow and Paolillo each had a goal and an assist in the loss.
Ridgefield 6, Notre Dame-West Haven 5
(at West Haven)
Ridgefield 3 1 1 1 -6
ND-West Haven 0 1 4 0 -5
First period- RF: Andrew Tregurtha (Liam Galloway, Joe Signorelli) 2:44; Will Forrest (Jonas Chang) 4:31; Jack Stafford (Ty Fujitani, nick cullinan) 11:50; Second period- NDWH: Matt Muro (Hunter Krasnow) 2:39; RF: Will Forrest (Ty Fujitani, nick cullinan) 6:26; Third period- NDWH: Hunter Krasnow (Vinny Paolillo) 3:22; Greg Caturano 6:56; Greg Caturano (Mike Ansaldo) 13:09; RF: Jeff Pracella (Harrison Chuma) 14:03; NDWH: Vinny Paolillo (Mike Bencivengo) 14:27; First overtime- RF: Jeff Pracella (Jack McGeary, Landon Byers) :18; Shots- RF: 18; NDWH: 32; Saves- NDWH: Brendan Crowley 12; Liam Connell 3; RF: Sean Keegans 27;
Records- Notre Dame-West Haven 9-7-1; Ridgefield 17-1.