WEST HAVEN >> Notre Dame-West Haven coach Tim Belcher knows he’s fortunate to have three quality goaltenders. Junior Wade Conlan is more than happy to make Belcher’s decision on which one to start very difficult.
Turning aside all 29 shots he faced, Conlan helped No. 3 Notre Dame defeat No. 2 Fairfield Prep 3-0 at Bennett Rink on Saturday afternoon.
The victory for the Green Knights (12-5-2) was only the second in their last seven games.
“I was in the zone today,” Conlan said. “We came prepared. We played well and we played as a team. This is a huge win for us. Hopefully, this gets us back on the winning track. This game came at a good time for us with the rivalry to get us going.”
With Conlan on his game between the pipes, the Green Knights got all the offense they needed from Ryan Lynch, who scored twice, and Matt Dumas, who had a goal and an assist.
The Green Knights entered the contest 1-4-1 in their last six games. After Conlan denied both Michael Ventricelli and William Burke Smith in the first 5 minutes of the game, Lynch got the Green Knights going.
Positioned in front of the Fairfield Prep goal, Lynch tipped in a laser from the point by James Davins for a 1-0 lead 6:45 into the contest.
“Our last seven games have not gone very well for us,” Lynch said. “We wanted to get back to our winning ways. We knew we needed to get that first goal. Everyone bought in. This game pushes us to work hard. We played with a lot of focus.”
With Lynch giving the Green Knights the lead, Conlan made sure the advantage held up. The junior denied Ryan Deering in front twice with 5:30 left in the first, then stopped a breakaway by Matt Wikman 1:15 later with a right arm save.
“He was awesome today,” Belcher said of Conlan. “He played big today. Wade really relishes these moments. He came up big. I have three good goaltenders and it was Wade’s chance today. He was great.”
Prep’s Chris Gutierrez made 25 saves on 28 shots and was at his best in the second period when he denied Kyle Lynch with a right shoulder save 2:30 in, stopped Ryan Lynch from the high slot 3 minutes later and again with 5:24 left in the period.
Notre Dame’s defense made life miserable for the Prep forwards, pushing the action to the outside and not allowing many quality scoring chances in the middle period. Prep’s best scoring opportunity came with 4:21 gone by, but Conlan denied Wikman off an angle shot.
“We had our chances,” Jesuits coach Matt Sather said after his team fell to 10-4-4. “Notre Dame did a really nice job in front of the net. We did not get a clean rebound all day. I thought (Conlan) played well.
“It was a great game. We have been in sort of a pattern where the tougher the game, we have trouble putting the puck in the net. We have to find a way to be more consistent on offense.”
Conlan completed the shutout with seven saves in the final 15 minutes. After Gutierrez denied Ryan Lynch on a breakaway to start the third period, Conlan made a great leg save in front off Dean Locketry and made a brilliant save in denying Steven Bayles with the pad.
Ryan Lynch iced the game 30 seconds later as he took a perfect pass from Dumas and beat Gutierrez with a backhander with 1:55 remaining. Dumas’ diving effort led to an empty-net goal for a 3-0 Notre Dame lead with 26 seconds remaining.
“This was a timely win for us,” Belcher said. “We have not played good hockey. The effort against Notre Dame-Fairfield the other night was awful. I am very honest with my team. Today was a complete 45-minute effort. Today was all about the kids. They earned this.”