SHELTON — The skaters may be short-handed but tenacious up front and on the blue line, but in net, Notre Dame-Fairfield’s boys hockey team has both tenacity and depth.
Senior Nick Piselli made 53 saves Wednesday night at The Rinks at Shelton in the Lancers’ 3-3 tie with No. 2 Fairfield Prep. Piselli stopped 24 shots in the third period and overtime to preserve it.
“For me, it’s the more shots, the more fun,” Piselli said.
“I’m a lot more in a groove than I would be in a game where I’m facing like 14 or 15 shots. It’s easier to get in a rhythm, get a better feel for the puck.”
— Michael Fornabaio (@fornabaioctp) January 9, 2020
No. 10 Notre Dame-Fairfield (4-2-1) came from two goals down to tie the game at 2 in the second period, fell behind again and tied it again before the second intermission.
The deeper Jesuits (3-2-1) came at the Lancers in waves, but Piselli, who transferred from Notre Dame-West Haven after last year, was there.
He made a right-pad stop on a Mason Whitney breakaway try three minutes into the game, and two minutes later denied Matt Ambrosio’s breakaway bid with a stick save.
“He’s a leader. He’s driven. He’s a gamer, bottom line,” Lancers coach Rich Minnix said.
“He made two big breakaway saves early in the game, and we got our footing. He’s great. I think I have the best 1-2 punch in the state. Every other game, they go at it, and both goalies compete.”
Junior Reagin Gallagher has a .937 save percentage; he stopped 35 of 38 in an overtime loss to New Canaan on the weekend. Piselli’s save percentage is up to .919.
“Our defensemen have been doing a really good job keeping guys out of the way in the front of the net so me and Reagin Gallagher can see pucks,” Piselli said.
The Jesuits, playing their first game in a week and a half and their first against a state foe since Dec. 21, dressed 20 skaters. The Lancers had 12.
“Their goaltender stands out, that’s for sure,” Fairfield Prep coach Matt Sather said. “We couldn’t figure him out in the third period and overtime, and to be honest with you, the ones that we did score, no skin off his nose: a breakaway, a tip. He was spectacular.”
Roberts Viguls scored the Jesuits’ first (on that tip) and third goals, with a breakway goal from Aksel Sather in between that had given Prep a 2-0 lead. Brian Essing scored twice for the Lancers not two minutes apart to tie it the first time, the second on a rebound off a draw.
“Defensively, we fell asleep in our own end, started backing up a big, lost a big faceoff in our end, just sort of lost focus at times,” Matt Sather said. “We didn’t focus well in front. But hats off to (the Lancers). They’re going to the net, they’re winning draws, making the most out of their opportunities. We just couldn’t finish at the end. Good game.”
Kevin Kelly’s goal tied it for good 1:17 after Viguls made it 3-2.
“A great hockey team, Fairfield Prep is. I was very happy to see my guys, down 2-0, not give up, make it a 4-, 5-0 game,” Minnix said. “We’ll take a tie tonight.”
PLAYER OF THE GAME
Nick Piselli made 13 saves in the first, 16 in the second, 15 in the third and nine in overtime.
ASK AGAIN LATER
The Jesuits, two-time defending state champions, had a lot of key players to replace, some players to bring along in important spots.
It’s a little early to tell how that process is going, Sather said.
“We played five games in two weeks, and then we haven’t played since. We play today, and we don’t play this weekend,” the coach said.
“You could almost look at it and say we don’t get into our rhythm here until next week. Starting next week, we play three games next week and then at least two games every week all the way out.”
“You’re not going to find a closer-knit group of boys in the state.” —Piselli, on the Lancers