WEST HAVEN >> There was little doubt Notre Dame-West Haven defenseman Doug Caliendo was going to suit up and play against Northwest Catholic Wednesday afternoon at Bennett Rink.
But no one would have faulted the young man if he decided to sit the game out. His father, Lou, passed away Wednesday morning after a long battle with cancer. But the senior co-captain was going to give it a go.
“Knowing my father for so long, he really loved the sport and always wanted me to play,” Doug said. “He would have said, ‘Just get out there and do what I do best.’”
There the Green Knights were, facing a 2-0 deficit in the third period. But the fourth-ranked Green Knights rallied back and forced overtime.
Then came the storybook ending. Caliendo, a defenseman with just three goals this season, scored just 25 seconds into overtime to give Notre Dame (8-4-1) a 3-2 win over fifth-ranked Northwest Catholic (9-2).
“I came out to the point, stepped into it and let it go and it hit the net. I was happy,” Caliendo said. “My father was the first thing that came to my mind. He was the one who got me into this sport (age 4).”
Notre Dame coach Tim Belcher gave Caliendo, 17, a hug when he arrived at the rink and was still emotional after the game was over.
“It’s surreal really. It makes you put everything into perspective with what happened today,” Belcher said. “I tried to explain to Doug the other day when we knew things weren’t good that, I’m 40, it’s supposed to be happening to me, not to a 17 year old. It’s hard.”
And what would Lou Caliendo have said to his son about scoring the deciding goal?
“He probably would have said, ‘At least you hit the net finally,’” Doug said.
Said Belcher: “Doug’s gone through a lot, the family has gone through a lot. It’s a storybook ending.”
Picture Perfect! Doug Caliendo with the OT Winner. 3-2 Final vs NWC! #Strong4Lou
— NDWH Hockey (@NDWH_Hockey) February 3, 2016
Are you kidding me? A goal from above, Doug Caliendo lights the lamp in OT. Lou helped that one get past the goalie too! ND wins 3-2. #cthk
— Notre Dame HSWH (@notredamewh) February 3, 2016
Talk about faith. Father of Doug Caliendo vicariously guides the hockey team to an OT W goal from his son. #respect
— Green Machine (@ND_Greenmachine) February 3, 2016
Thank you everyone for the outpouring of support to my family. My dad had a long hard battle with colon cancer and is no longer in pain.
— Dougie Caliendo (@dcaliendo10) February 4, 2016
— Dave Eustis (@DaveEustis) February 4, 2016
Notre Dame-West Haven 3, Northwest Catholic 2 (OT)
(at West Haven)
Northwest Catholic 0 2 0 0 — 2
Notre Dame-West Haven 0 0 2 1 — 3
Second period—NWC: Paul Arel (JJ Foster, Anthony Ceolin) 8:03; Ryan Sherba (Anthony Giannone) 10:37; Third period—NDWH: Vin Paolillo (Doug Caliendo) 8:54; Vin Paolillo (Joe Ansaldo) 12:43; First overtime—NDWH: Doug Caliendo (Matt Ciaburro) :25;
Saves—NDWH: Conor Hylton 20; NWC: Mike Camasso 40;
Records—Notre Dame-West Haven 8-4-1