NEW HAVEN >> Whenever the Notre Dame-West Haven boys hockey team and Fairfield Prep face off, the fierce rivalry usually produces excitement for fans of both teams.
On Wednesday in the CIAC Division I semifinals, the excitement came about after two periods were in the books.
Matt Wikman scored at 5:45 of overtime to lead No. 3 seed Fairfield Prep to a 4-3 win over No. 2 Notre Dame-West Haven at Yale’s Ingalls Rink.
Prep will face Darien for the Division I championship on Saturday at 2 p.m. at Ingalls Rink. Darien defeated Notre Dame-Fairfield 3-1 in the other semifinal.
Prep was ahead 2-0 after two periods and appeared in control of the game. But the Green Knights, who tied the Jesuits 4-4 and defeated the Jesuits 3-0 in the regular season, refused to lay down, sparked by a pair of late goals by Ryan Lynch.
“We’ve had problems closing games all season,” Wikman said. “We tried to bear down and close this one out, but couldn’t do it. They’re a good team and it’s always a fierce rivalry when we play.
“When I took the shot (winning goal) I didn’t even see it go in. I broke down the left wing on a 2-on-1 and saw an opening and took the shot.”
In the first period, both teams had chances to get the first goal but it was Dean Lockery of New Haven who did not waste a rebound opportunity.
Prep forward Matt Wikman took a shot from the left circle and ND’s Wade Conlan made the stick save. But the puck rebounded to Lockery in front of the net who one-timed a shot into the left corner for a 1-0 Jesuits lead at 6:09 of the first period.
A more aggressive Notre Dame came out in the second period and it took the first four shots. One of the best shots came amid a scramble in front of Prep goalie Matt Beck near the left post. Eric Austin took a shot and Conlan made the stick save. Casey Hoban had a wide open long-range shot inside the left circle. But Beck was able to make a glove save on the rising slap shot.
As the second period went on the Jesuits started taking more shots and another one would pay off.
Bryan Connell flipped the puck to Ryan Deering near the left post who wristed a shot past Conlan for a 2-0 lead at 8:47 of the second period.
The Green Knights wasted no time in mounting their comeback in the third period.
Prep’s William Overby was nabbed for a tripping penalty 33 seconds into the third period. Kyle Lynch gave ND fans something to cheer about when he scored a power-play goal at 1:04 of the third period to cut Prep’s lead to 2-1.
Prep’s William Schlichtig responded with a goal at 3:41 of the third period to make it 3-1. But Ryan Lynch, Kyle’s brother, would add another ND power-play goal at 8:34 of the third period to make it a one-goal game again at 3-2. Ryan Lynch sent the ND faithful to their feet with another goal at 12:44 to tie the game at three and send the game into OT.
“That kid Lynch is something else, a real tough player,” Prep coach Matt Sather said. “He’s got something like seven or eight goals against us this season. All those guys (ND) played their hearts out and I feel foir those guys because I’ve been on that end of it.
“Getting back to the final is great and rewarding.”
Prep will be trying to win its 16th state title overall including two of the last four years.
Fairfield Prep 4, Notre Dame-West Haven 3
(at New Haven)
Fairfield Prep 1 1 1 1 — 4
Notre Dame-West Haven 0 0 3 0 — 3
First period—FP: Dean Lockery (Matt Wikman) 6:09; Second period—FP: Ryan Deering (Bryan Connell) 8:47; Third period—NDWH: Kyle Lynch (Colin OConnor) 1:04; FP: Will Schlichtig (Ryan Deering) 3:41; NDWH: Ryan Lynch (Kyle Lynch) 8:34; Ryan Lynch (Matt Dumas) 12:44; First overtime—FP: Matt Wikman 5:45;
Shots—FP: 41; NDWH: 29;
Saves—FP: Matt Beck 26; NDWH: Wade Conlan 37;
Records—Notre Dame-West Haven 15-4-3; Fairfield Prep 22-3-1