Notre Dame-West Haven hockey focuses on state tourney following SCC-SWC final loss

(Photo by Peter Hvizdak-New Haven Register) Fairfield Prep vs. Notre Dame-West Haven boys hockey  Saturday  February 22, 2014 at Bennett Rink in West Haven.

(Photo by Peter Hvizdak-New Haven Register)

WEST HAVEN — Cashing in on opportunities presented. That was the theme in the aftermath of Notre Dame – West Haven’s loss to Notre Dame –Fairfield Friday night.

With the state tournament right around the corner, the SCC-SWC Division I title game promised to be filled with excitement. While the game lived up to the billing, it was not the outcome the Notre Dame Green Knights would have liked.

Paced by two by Garrett Gintoli goals and 30 saves from Zach Bouve, the top-seeded Notre Dame Lancers took home the title Friday night at the Edward L. Bennett Rink in West Haven.

As the state tournament nears, the Green Knights were looking to fine tune their game. In the end, it was the opportunities they failed to seize that proved to be a factor in the 5-2 loss.

The most glaring opportunities came on the power play where the Green Knights converted just once in six opportunities, including a two-man advantage for less than 20 seconds, trailing by a goal in the third period.

With a 2-2-1 record in its last five games entering the contest, Notre Dame was hoping for a boost heading into the state tournament.

“I thought we could have played better,” Notre Dame-WH coach Tim Belcher said. “They played hard. Tonight, they were the better team.

“Every athlete wants to win a championship. This was for a conference championship. It is not the end all be all. You want to win a championship. They were just better tonight.”

The Green Knights started the season 11-3-1 but have struggled as of late. Friday night can be used as a building block.

While the Green Knights lost, the contest was a one-goal game until the final 5 minutes. What has to be
encouraging for Belcher is the number of opportunities the Green Knights had.

The first period saw the Green Knights with 10 quality scoring opportunities, but Bouve, the game’s most valuable player, was up to the task.

Bouve denied Ryan Lynch from the right wing with 6:15 remaining, stopped a blast by Colin O’Connor 2 minutes later and turned a side a rocket from the point by Lynch with 2 minutes left in the opening period.

For good measure, Bouve again denied O’Connor with a glove save with 1:29 to go in a scoreless first period.
“It was a hard-fought game,” Belcher said. “It was one of those things where we needed to finish our chances. We had enough shots to win the game. We did not put the dirty ones in front in.

“They scored a lot of goals in front and we didn’t. We need to cash in when we have the opportunity. We didn’t tonight.”

After taking leads of 1-0 and 2-1 on goals by Matt Dumas and James Davins in the second period, the Green Knights allowed two goals in less than 20 seconds to enter the third period down a goal.

Goaltender Wade Conlan kept his team in the game with 31 saves through two periods and 37 in the game.

“I think it was a wakeup call for us tonight,” Conlan said. “We will take this in and bounce back. We have a lot of chemistry on this team. We need to use that to our advantage.

“We have to prepare the same way. We have to play with that chemistry and play our game.”

Missed opportunities were again the theme in the third period for the Green Knights. Brothers Ryan and Kyle Lynch were denied twice within 2 minutes and Kyle Lynch was again stopped by Bouve from the slot when it looked like he was getting the equalizer with 7 minutes remaining in the final period.

The Lancers rebounded with a goal by Nick Carloto for a 4-2 lead, but the Green Knights continued to battle, only to see two blasts from Dumas turned aside by Bouve within seconds in the final 3 minutes.

“I equate this to a college basketball conference championship game,” Belcher said. “It is tough to swallow, but now we have to prepare for the state tournament.

“I thought Wade (Conlan) played great. The last two regular-season games he has played well enough to give us a chance to win. All you want is for your goaltender to give you a chance to win and he has done that.”

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