BRIDGEPORT >> After spending almost the entire first period in the penalty box due to a five-minute major penalty and 10-minute misconduct penalty for a hit from behind, Fairfield Prep senior Matt Wikman made his presence felt as soon as he got back on the ice.
With the score tied at two against Notre Dame-Fairfield, Wikman took a pass from Ken Kochiss and found the back of the net for the eventual game-winner as the Jesuits used a three-goal second period and a solid defensive effort to defeat Notre Dame 5-2 Thursday at Webster Bank Arena.
“I just wanted to get the win, and I had to do what I could,” Wikman said. “And if that’s scoring a goal, that’s scoring a goal.”
Prep (4-2-1) had a balanced effort offensively (five players scored) but set themselves apart on the defensive end. Senior goalie Chris Gutierrez, who hadn’t played since Dec. 28, overcame a shaky start to come up big multiple times against a Lancer line that kept attacking.
“(It was a) rough start, but after that I thought he played excellent,” Prep head coach Matt Sather said of Gutierrez.
Added Wikman: “He played great. He was stopping everything. He’s a good goalie; he’s going to bring it every night.”
Gutierrez finished with 22 saves.
Prep responded in the second period after the Lancers built a 2-1 lead over the game’s first 15 minutes. Less than three minutes into the second period, Prep’s Ryan Deering made a nice move on the left side to tie the game at two. Wikman found the net a few minutes later, while forward Mike Ventricelli received a pass from Deering near the left post to push the lead to 4-2 right before the buzzer.
“We knew that,” Notre Dame coach Steve Hetherman said of Prep coming out strong in the second. “We alerted all the boys. They are in high school, they just have to learn how to respond. It’s a good life lesson, how to respond to adversity.”
The Lancers received a solid effort from senior Justin Krochko, who finished with 31 saves.
Prep’s Kochiss made it 5-2 late in the third period on an empty-netter.
Notre Dame (3-3) came out firing in the opening period. After Prep took a 1-0 lead on a goal from Dean Lockery, Christian LaCroix tied the game 36 seconds later. With 6:35 remaining, the Lancers took the 2-1 lead on a goal from Garrett Gintoli.
While collecting the win and responding well early on to a major penalty that Sather said his team hasn’t seen in 8-10 years, the Prep coach saw plenty of things the Jesuits need to do better.
“I thought we got a couple of lucky bounces, but I didn’t really think we played to our potential,” Sather said. “I thought it was pretty sloppy all in all. We need to get a lot better.”
Added Hetherman: “The best thing is, it’s a loss in January. It’s not in March where you have to go home. We’ll look at the film, break it down; show them this is where you excelled, this what we need to work on.”
Fairfield Prep 5, ND-Fairfield 2
Goals: Fairfield Prep: Lockery, Deering, Wikman, Ventricell, Kochiss
Notre Dame: LaCroix, Gintoli
Assists: Prep: Kochiss 2, Deering, Wikman, Blanchette
ND: Henchcliffe, Demchak
Goalies: Prep: Gutierrez (22 saves)
ND: Krochko (31 saves)