BRIDGEPORT — They all have a free period to end the day at Fairfield Prep, so Jack Esse, Roberts Viguls and Matt Wenger like to go to the Wonderland of Ice before boys hockey practice together as a line and get to work early.
“We really just spend a lot of time working on every system we have,” Wenger said.
It looks like it’s working. The trio were in on three of the No. 3 Jesuits’ six goals Saturday afternoon in a 6-0 whitewash of No. 2 Notre Dame-West Haven at Wonderland.
“Since the Darien game, they’ve made a better commitment to two things,” Jesuits coach Matt Sather said. “No. 1 being more physical. They’re all three big, strong seniors. But also playing a little simpler, not being afraid to chip and charge a little bit, not thinking everything’s got to be a dangle move.
“Using more powerful stuff, Jack coming out of the corners and finding those seams between the forwards and the (defense), whereas before they’d try to stickhandle through somebody’s feet.”
Since losing 6-3 at Darien two weeks ago, the Jesuits (7-4-1) have won three in a row, all against top-10 teams, by a combined 20-1.
“We just got angry. Darien’s one of our favorite games to play,” Wenger said. “It’s just high energy. First period, we really just got jumped.
“The theme for the past week, week and a half is just get (ticked) off, come out and hit everything that moves, and it’s been working.”
The Jesuits scored three goals in the first period, the first on a power play, the second just after a power play expired. Esse scored the third coming hard out of the left corner; Aksel Sather made it 4-0 in the first minute of the second period on a similar play coming out of the right corner.
“We’ve focused a lot on coming out hard,” Esse said, “and not as much about the puck movement, but just going hard to the corner, coming out and hitting guys.”
Viguls scored two goals, including that opener on the power play, a one-timer from the right circle off a Cooper Eckert pass.
“We have a couple of systems that we run,” Viguls said, “and we look for what’s open.”
Andrew Stietzel got the shutout with 29 saves.
The Green Knights have lost four out of six since a 7-0 start, not that they’ve lost to any slouches along the way; the other three were to No. 1 Darien and two solid out-of-state teams.
“Our whole game” was missing Saturday, said Notre Dame coach Larry Vieira, whose team fell to 9-4. “They outclassed us. I think we’re a pretty good team. They made us play poor. They had a jump in their skate.
“They were by far a much better team than us.”
The Jesuits killed five penalties, and on a couple of them, they spent much of the kill in the Notre Dame end.
“The effort’s there, much better than it was,” Sather said. “The X’s and O’s aren’t quite there yet.”
PLAYER OF THE GAME
Roberts Viguls had three points, including the power-play goal that started off the Jesuits to an easy win.
Against Xavier, Hamden and now Notre Dame, the Jesuits have surrendered just one goal. They’ve committed to team defense, Sather said, getting back to help out when the defensemen disrupt other teams’ rushes and zone entries.
“We gave up a ton of goals early in the season around the net off rebounds,” Esse said, “so we’ve really focused in practice on being stronger around the net getting pucks out and getting guys to the net to pick up those loose rebounds.”
MESSIER, NOT MESSIER?
The Green Knights were missing forward John D’Errico, who received a major and a game misconduct in their last game against Notre Dame-Fairfield.
Still, “I don’t think Wayne Gretzky could’ve helped us,” Vieira said. “I didn’t see any positives from anybody, coaches, players.”
“We had a great week of practice. We’ve beaten a lot of good teams. This is by far our worst game in the two years I’ve been here. … They beat us to every puck. They deserved it.” —Notre Dame coach Larry Vieira