SHELTON — Notre Dame-Fairfield’s senior goalie says he’s treating Friday’s game as just another night in the Lancers’ 20-game season.
It’s on a completely different stage than usual, though, an 8,500-seat arena where Nick Piselli grew up going to Bridgeport Sound Tigers games, instead of the small local rinks, like The Rinks at Shelton, where the Lancers usually play.
And, oh, right: Friday’s game is against his former teammates, No. 2 Notre Dame-West Haven, the teams’ only meeting of the regular season.
Other than that, just Game 12, Friday night, 8:30 p.m. at Webster Bank Arena as part of the first day of the Connecticut Ice festival and tournament.
“It’s just another game, you know?” Piselli said before the No. 10 Lancers practiced Monday morning. “It’s going to be a lot of fun playing against my old school. I know a lot of those kids for a while. It’s just another game. We’re looking to get the win. We think we can win the game just as much as they probably think they can win the game.”
Piselli transferred from one Notre Dame to the other in the spring, after his old school made an unexpected run to the CIAC Division I final. He sat out half of lacrosse season, making him eligible to play right away for the Lancers this year.
“It was definitely more than one thing, and it wasn’t just hockey,” Piselli said; the Lancers did have a hole in net after all-state goalie Kacy Adams graduated. “I feel it’s a lot more low-key here. It’s a lot easier for me to be myself and worry about nothing but hockey, get my schoolwork done and no extra factors.”
Piselli and junior Reagin Gallagher have helped keep the Lancers, with a short roster that includes just four defensemen, in games in the first half of the season. Ranked No. 10 in the latest GameTimeCT poll, Notre Dame-Fairfield was 5-4-1 going into Wednesday’s game against No. 6 Ridgefield.
“We lost a great goaltender, Kacy Adams, last year, an all-state kid,” Lancers co-captain Aaron Martino said. But Piselli and Gallagher “are two great goalies. They boost each other up. When one elevates their play, the other elevates a little more. It’s great to watch it. They’ve both had great games.”
Piselli’s include a 53-save effort on Jan. 8 in a 3-3 game against No. 3 Fairfield Prep. He made 41 stops that weekend in the consolation game of the Lancer Beanpot against St. Dominic Academy of Maine.
“He competes,” Lancers coach Rich Minnix said. “If he lets up a goal in practice, he gets pretty upset with himself. He wants to win.”
Piselli grew up in Milford and started playing hockey around age 5, at forward. But he said he started playing because of New York Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist, and he moved to the net at age 8. He played for the Southern Stars and Wonderland Wizards.
He felt he made a lot of progress in his game in the past summer.
“I worked on my strength a lot, my speed,” Piselli said. “I cut down a little bit of weight, and I’m a lot quicker in the crease now. I worked a lot on my flexibility. I’m better this year because of all the work I’ve been putting in in the offseason.”
He and the Lancers will finish the first day of Connecticut Ice, whose main event is a two-day tournament among the state’s four Division I men’s college programs: UConn meets Quinnipiac and Sacred Heart faces Yale on Saturday, with a consolation game and a championship game on Sunday.
Tickets for Friday will be sold at the door and will cost $10 for adults and $5 for children 2-18. More information is available at the event’s website.
Guilford’s girls hockey team meets West Haven/Sacred Heart Academy at 4:15 p.m. to begin Friday evening. The boys prep school game follows, Westminster against Loomis Chaffee.
And then come the two Notre Dames, a game in which Piselli’s new team will be underdogs. But three transfer forwards become eligible Wednesday night, lengthening their lineup a bit.
“We go to battle every single game, we go for each other,” Piselli said. “We respect everybody on the team. We’re all each other’s best friends. There’s nobody I’d rather play for at the end of the day.”