WEST HAVEN — Notre Dame-West Haven coach Tim Belcher has been concerned about his team’s scoring this season. Playing solid defensively and in goal will quickly ease Belcher’s concerns.
That is exactly what happened Wednesday evening as the Green Knights turned in a solid defensive effort and got 25 saves from Brendan Crowley in a 2-1 victory over Ridgefield in a Division I contest at the Edward L. Bennett Rink in West Haven.
“We are not a team which is going to light it up with four or five goals a game,” Belcher said. “I try to tell the guys, a 2-1 win is just as good as a 10-7 or a 10-6 win. Who cares who scores? We are in the left hand column (wins) and that is all I care about. We played good defensive hockey and Brendan (Crowley) was tremendous in net. He made some great saves.”
The Green Knights (3-1) got just enough offense as freshman Kyle Stober had a goal and an assist, including setting up the eventual winner by Ian Hayden with just 1 minute, 18 seconds gone by in the third period.
“This is a really big win for us,” Stober said. “We needed to come back after losing to Hamden. Ridgefield is coming back as the defending state champion and we want to show everyone we belong.”
Stober came up big to start the third period when he sent Hayden in on a break. Hayden deked and slipped the puck past Ridgefield goaltender Sean Gordon for a 2-0 Notre Dame lead.
The goal by Hayden would prove to be a big one as the Tigers pressured and got within a goal with seven minutes remaining when Cornelius van Wees set up Matthew Walker in front and Walker promptly beat Crowley to get within 2-1.
Crowley then came up big in the final minutes as he stopped a shot by Nicolas Cullinan in the slot with 3:03 to go, denied van Wees from the slot with a blocker save with 1:19 remaining, and also turned aside a shot by Cullinan in front in the final minute.
“The Hamden loss was a tough loss,” Belcher said. “A lot of these guys play together in the offseason. It is one of those things where I did not think we came to play shift in and shift out. When we come to play every game, we can be pretty good. When we have lapses, teams will take advantage of us.”
Gordon continued to come up big in the middle period as he stopped 12 shots by the Green Knights. It was the one stop he could not turn aside which gave Notre Dame a 1-0 lead after two periods.
After Gordon denied Stober in close with a pad save one minute in, Stober came out from the corner, wheeled and beat Gordon from an angle in front for a 1-0 advantage with 1:25 gone by in the second.
Notre Dame put constant pressure on in the middle period, but Gordon denied Kevin Millea from the point, Stober off the wing, and Millea again from the slot with a stick save with 3:58 gone by in the period.
Gordon’s best save of the middle period came when he robbed Tyler Robichaud in front off a perfect feed from Mike Bencivengo, before Bencivengo hit the post seconds later.
Crowley made eight saves in the middle period, none better than in the final seconds when he stopped Cullinan in front with 56.9 seconds to go, then denying Simon van Wees with a glove save in the final five seconds.
The Green Knights dominated play in the opening period, holding a 13-6 shot advantage, but they were unable to find the back of the net as Gordon stopped all 13 shots.
“We started really slow,” Ridgefield coach Shaun Gallagher said after his team fell to 1-2. “Notre Dame wanted it more. They had a really good first period. They dominated possession for a good portion of the first period. Once we started to skate in the third period, it was a little too late.”
Gordon’s best work came in the final 10 minutes of the opening period as he denied Hayden with a pad save off a two-on-one break with 9:40 to go, then stopped Bencivengo from the right wing and the rebound by Millea with 5:45 left in the period. Gordon’s best stop in the opening 15 minutes came when he denied Bencivengo in front with a stick save with 2:22 to go.
Crowley was equally impressive in goal for the Green Knights in the opening period, turning aside all six shots he faced, the majority in the opening minutes of the period. Crowley denied Cullinan in front with a pad save 40 seconds in, denied Braeden McSpedon off the wing with a sharp glove save 2:09 in, and Cullinan again in front with 8:55 left in the opening period.
NOTRE DAME-WEST HAVEN 2, RIDGEFIELD 1
RIDGEFIELD 0 0 1 — 1
NOTRE DAME-WEST HAVEN0 1 1 — 2
Second Period: N – Kyle Stober (Mike Ansaldo) 13:35; Third Period: N – Ian Hayden (Kyle Stober) 13:42; R- Matthew Walker (Cornelius van Wees) 7:00; Records: R 1-2; N 3-1