WEST HAVEN >> After starting out 0-3, defense was one of the key factors in the turnaround for the Notre Dame-West Haven boys hockey team, which has been one of the hottest teams in the state the past two weeks.
On Wednesday against SCC-SWC rival Notre Dame-Fairfield, it was the offense that took center stage for Notre Dame-West Haven.
The Green Knights scored three goals in a span of 1 minute, 28 seconds to close the first period, capped by a Greg Caturano goal and Liam Connell had 26 saves to lead No. 8 Notre Dame-West Haven to a 6-3 win over Notre Dame-Fairfield at Bennett Rink.
In the last five games the Green Knights have gone 4-1, including three wins in a row, to improve to 4-4, 1-0.
“When you start out 0-3, you almost think the wins will never come,” Notre Dame-West Haven coach Tim Belcher said. “But we preach patience here at ND and I told our players you can’t be impatient. Today was a good example of how well we are finishing plays now. We had opportunities today, balanced scoring (six different players scored) and cashed in on our chances.
“When you score three goals that quickly (1:28), that can deflate any team. We had a great effort from everyone today. Any time the stat sheet is full with guys contributing, it’s a big thing. It’s all about being hungry.”
The Lancers fall to 1-4-1, 0-2.
“It’s always a great game with Notre Dame-West Haven,” Notre Dame-Fairfield coach Steve Hetherman said. “Today we saw some good things and then some bad things. We had too many penalties and that three-goal spurt was certainly a turning point.
“The thing with us is we’re young and inexperienced and we have three key players out with injuries. Our goal is to keep improving and keep getting better with every game.”
In the first period, the Lancers took a 2-1 lead, but the three-goal spurt gave the Green Knights a lead they would never give up.
Mike Ansaldo gave the Green Knights a 1-0 lead at 2:20 off a shot from the bottom of the right circle.
Spencer Ryall of Guilford responded with goals at 3:43 and 10:09 to give the Lancers a 2-1 lead.
But Vin Paolillo started the comeback for the Green Knights with a goal at 11:36 to tie the game at 2. Then 19 seconds later the Green Knights regained the lead when Tom Driscoll scored for a 3-2 lead. Caturano, a Branford resident, capped the scoring run with a goal at 13:04 for a 4-2 lead at the first intermission.
“Once we tied the game we wanted to keep pouring it on,” Caturano said. “Our coach kept screaming at us from the bench to take shots and that’s what we did. We were really clicking on offense. The reason we have turned it around is our offense has improved, but we are also playing a lot better on defense. Our goalie Liam Connell has been outstanding in the net.”
Two unanswered power-play goals gave the Green Knights some insurance in the second period for a 6-2 lead at the second break.
ND-Fairfield’s Jason Ziegler was called for a holding penalty at 3:05 of the second and four seconds later Hunter Krasnow scored to give the Green Knights a 5-2 lead.
At 4:52, Tom Kurlya was handed a 5 minute major and 10 minute misconduct penalty for hitting from behind and then at 6:27 ND-Fairfield’s Ziegler was nabbed for a tripping penalty, giving the Green Knights a 5-on-3 advantage. Clayton Coassin took advantage, scoring a power-play goal at 6:46 for a 6-2 lead.
Notre Dame-Fairfield’s Stephen Willey of Shelton scored the only goal of the third period for the 6-3 final. The Lancers used three goals with Billy Scovill in the first period (five saves), Andrew Jones in the second period (eight saves) and Kacy Adams in the third period (16 saves).
“Winning is fun, but with our recent success we are gaining confidence,” Caturano said. “That’s the important thing.”