MIDDLETOWN >> Xavier’s ice hockey team will be moving up.
Playing what Xavier coach Dan DeConti called its best hockey of the season, the fourth-ranked Falcons beat No. 2 New Canaan, 3-2, at Wesleyan’s the Spurrier-Snyder Rink Monday afternoon.
The key to this win, and according to DeConti the real key to his club’s season long success, was the brilliant play of goalkeeper Jared Guidobono.
“He was spectacular,” said DeConti of his keeper who stopped 35 of 37 shots. “He’s a four-year player, he started for us last year and he’s just huge for us. Our strength is our defense which includes Jared. It’s the second game in a row [the other was a 4-1 win Saturday over Notre Dame] in which he’s had over 30 saves.”
Once he said that, DeConti then offered a caution.
“We really need to do a better job on defense preventing shots because we can’t expect him to make 30 saves every night,” he added.
No matter how many saves a goalie makes, a team has to score to win and DeConti said that going into the season he was concerned about his offense. He’s less concerned as his club nears the halfway point.
“I’ve been pleasantly surprised,” DeConti said. “We have a lot of inexperience on offense. We lost nine to graduation, then we lost three more to prep school and football. But we keep finding ways to put the puck in the net.”
That was demonstrated on the Falcons’ third goal of the afternoon, a goal that was, oh, call it fortunate. At the time the goal gave Xavier a 3-1 lead, but it turned out to be the game-winner.
“That goal was a weird defection,” DeConti said. “We keep telling the kids when the defense gets the puck we need to put forwards in front of the net. Not only does that obscure the view of their keeper, it also sets up possibilities like that deflection.”
The goal came with 41 seconds left in the second period. Tyler Lappe came down the bleacher side of the ice and fired toward the goal from maybe 20 yards out. The puck bounced off Austin Reid past New Canaan keeper Peter Windas, who had no chance.
New Canaan, which had 37 shots to Xavier’s 21 — the only statistic that counts is the number of goals — scored first when Anton Adding scored with 10:37 left in the opening period.
Xavier (7-2) came back to tie when Austin Reid scored with 2:24 left in the first.
New Canaan (6-2) outshot Xavier 12-6 in the second period, but the Falcons were efficient, cashing in on two of their six shots. Aden Hotchkiss scored with 4:31 left to give Xavier a 2-1 lead and then came that deflection and the
Falcons took a 3-1 lead to the final 15 minutes.
Xavier held on — barely — through the third.
George McMahon scored with 13:33 remaining to cut the lead to 3-2 and from there to the end it was a case of the Falcons holding on by their fingernails.
A New Canaan shot was stopped by Guidobono with 90 seconds left and despite pulling their goalie and having a 5-4 advantage on the power play over those final 90 seconds, the Xavier defense held.
“No question we played very well today; it was some of the best hockey we’ve played all year,” DeConti said. “New Canaan is very good. It’s a senior-dominated team with 16 players back from last season. I told the kids they had to play at their best and for the most part, they did.
“We know we have to work on finishing games. We’ve had four overtime games and in three of them we were leading in the third period. We have to be a little smarter and we have to learn to use the clock more to our advantage. Today I thought we did.”