WEST HAVEN – After starting the season with one win in its first five games, the Notre Dame hockey team has been looking for a spark to turn the season around. Sophomore Ian Hayden just may have provided that spark.
Scoring twice, including a short-handed goal in the third period, Hayden helped lead the Green Knights to a 4-3 Southern Connecticut Conference Division I victory over Fairfield Prep at the Edward L. Bennett Rink Sunday evening. With their second consecutive win and third in the last four games, the Green Knights improved to 3-4 on the season.
“It was a team effort out there tonight,” Hayden said. “We had good passing and some blocked shots. We played with heart the whole game. This is a really big win for us. Hopefully, this can turn around our season the rest of the way.”
Leading 3-2 after two periods of play after Hayden erased Prep’s tying goal with a goal of his own with 38.8 seconds left in the second, the Green Knights turned to their sophomore to start the third.
Prep started the third period on the power play as the Green Knights took a penalty as time expired in the second. After early pressure by the Jesuits, Hayden came down the right wing and rang a shot inside the far post 1:52 into the third for a 4-2 Notre Dame advantage.
“This was a hard-fought game,” Notre Dame coach Tim Belcher said. “We were in the box a little too much. We need to play teams five on five. Playing down a man is not what we want to be doing. We dodged a bullet a few times. Scoring while short-handed is like a two goal swing. You limit them on the power play and get one on the board. Special teams have been good to us so far this year.”
The goal by Hayden proved to be big as the Jesuits (4-3) scored on their fifth power play opportunity of the night when Cole Casl set up a blast by Christopher Brown with 7:56 to go in the game to get the Jesuits within 4-3.
“They outworked us,” Fairfield Prep coach Matt Sather said. “You have to give them credit. Their goalie (Liam Connell) played a great game. We did a good job controlling the puck, but we did not do a good job of creating opportunities.”
After being outplayed by Notre Dame through the first 15 minutes, the Jesuits turned the tables in the second period, only to trail 3-2 after 30 minutes of action. The Jesuits evened the game at two, but a goal by Notre Dame’s Hayden in the final minute of the second gave the Green Knights a 3-2 lead.
The play in the middle period was mostly in the Notre Dame end as the Jesuits held a 16-3 shot advantage, but Note Dame scored on two of the three shots it took.
While short-handed, Matt Ciaburro scored the first of two Notre Dame short-handed goals off assists from Greg Caturano and Zack Dumas 4:46 into the period for a 2-0 advantage.
Prep, ranked fifth in the Register/GameTimeCT Top 10 poll, immediately fought back, taking the play to the Green Knights until scoring twice in the final 4:48 of the middle period. Carter Kral fed Casl who ripped a snap shot from the point on the power play between the legs of Notre Dame goaltender Liam Connell to cut the deficit to 2-1.
Just 3:28 later, the Jesuits evened the game when Devin Blanchette ripped a shot from the slot under the glove of Connell with 1:20 left in the period.
That tie was short-lived as Caturano fed Hayden, who quickly beat Fairfield Prep goaltender Christopher Ligas with 38.8 seconds remaining in the middle period to put the Green Knights back in front 3-2 after two periods of play.
“We sacrificed the body and blocked shots tonight,” Belcher said. “We did what we needed to do to win.”
The Green Knights, tied for ninth in the poll, dominated play in the first period, controlling the action in the Fairfield Prep end with a 13-6 shot advantage and 1-0 advantage on the scoreboard.
Notre Dame scored the lone goal of the opening period just 4:50 into the game when Hunter Krasnow slammed in a shot in front by Ligas for a 1-0 lead. That was all the Green Knights would get as Ligas was up to the challenge in the opening period.
Ligas denied Dumas with a shot off the mask five minutes in, then denied Liam Hylton’s blast from the right faceoff circle with a pad save with 4:30 to go in the opening period.