WEST HAVEN — When returning to coach at his alma mater, Notre Dame-West Haven’s Tim Belcher envisioned numerous victories and playoff contests. If Saturday afternoon was a preview of the season ahead, Belcher is in for quite a ride.
Scoring four times in the second period and three more in the third, the Green Knights rallied and held off the Lancers from Notre Dame-Fairfield, 8-5, in the second game of the West Haven Christmas Tournament at the Edward L. Bennett Rink.
The win was Belcher’s first since taking the reins of the Green Knights (1-1). The Lancers dropped to 1-1 with the loss.
“It means a lot to me personally,” Belcher said. “It is a great win. I have been waiting a long time for this. It is emotional. To go back to my alma mater to coach a team where we had success and won a state championship, means a lot. It is hard to put into words. I will think about it tonight, but it will probably sink in tomorrow. Right now, it is a little surreal.”
The second period epitomized the intensity of the game as the two teams combined for seven goals, two on the power play, on 28 shots. Six goals were scored in the final 4 minutes, 26 seconds of the period, including three in 42 seconds to give the Green Knights a 5-4 lead after two periods of play.
With the game even at 1, Kyle Lynch took a perfect cross-ice pass from Alex Andreucci and beat Notre Dame-Fairfield goaltender Zach Bouve with a power-play goal with 5:53 to go in the middle period.
“It is really neat to help him (Belcher) get his first win here,” Kyle Lynch said. “It was a rivalry game and all the students were here for us. Our power play stepped up at the end of the game. We were tough all game.”
The Lancers wasted no time tying the game as they pressured immediately. The reward came when Nick Carloto scored to the short side of Green Knights’ goaltender Justin Daddio off assists from Brendan Barger and Dan Walsh to even the game 1:27 later.
The back and forth contest continued and the Green Knights started the scoring barrage to end the period when Ryan Lynch came in on a break and the puck glanced off the skate of the Lancer defense past Bouve for a power-play goal and a 3-2 lead with 2:57 to go in the middle period.
“It is huge to get the first win,” Ryan Lynch said after finishing with two goals. “The second period was huge. For us to get the last goal and go into the third period with the lead was big for us.”
The Lancers answered to continue the frantic pace just 1 minute later as Greg Ferris set up Jon Suporn who blasted a shot past Daddio to the left side, evening the game at 3.
The tie did not last long.
Matt Dumas scored off the ensuing faceoff seven seconds later off an assist from Joe Biondi for a 4-3 Green Knights lead. Thirty seconds later, the lead was 5-3 as Eric Austin sniped a shot to the top-left corner from the slot past Bouve.
“It was big that we were able to respond, but when the scoring is like that, we have to nip it,” Belcher said. “When we let them score right after and give them the momentum, that worries me. I am defense first.”
The Green Knights barely had time to celebrate as the Lancers answered 12 seconds later to cut the deficit to 5-4 with 1:08 left in the middle period. Justin Dupuis fed Christian LaCroix, who beat Daddio five-hole, setting up the dramatic third period.
The Lancers evened the game at 5 just 2:20 into the third period when Ferris came out of the penalty box and fed Carloto with a perfect pass. Carloto did the rest, beating Daddio to even the contest.
Penalties played a huge part in the game as the Lancers were short-handed seven times and the Green Knights scored five times, including twice on a major penalty later in the third period.
“The goal-scoring does not concern me,” Lancers’ coach Steve Hetherman said. “It is the lack of focus that concerns me. We should never get that many penalties.
“It is a resilient group. It is still early in the season. I would rather lose now than later in the season.”
The Green Knights took the lead for good with Lancers’ Craig Hessenius in the penalty box. Ryan Lynch found his way through the defense and beat Bouve for a 6-5 lead just 1:27 after the Lancers evened the contest.
With the game going back and forth, the Lancers were looking for the equalizer. Instead, a major penalty was called on Josh McCormack for contact to the head, giving the Green Knights 5 full minutes of power-play time with 8:23 left in the game.
The Green Knights capitalized with two goals within 1:19 to put the contest away. Kyle Lynch’s second of the game made it 7-5 with 7:59 remaining and Colin O’Connor sealed the win off an assist from Austin a short time later.
“The Lynch’s are just hockey players,” Belcher said. “They had some big goals.”
Suporn and Carloto each finished with two goals for the Lancers, while Ferris added a pair of assists. Kyle Lynch and Ryan Lynch each had two goals for the Green Knights, with Austin adding a goal and two assists.
Daddio made 22 saves for the Green Knights, while Bouve faced 38 shots and made 30 saves in the loss.