WEST HAVEN – It does not take much to spice up the rivalry between Notre Dame-West Haven and Hamden.
Three games in 14 days between the two schools should do the trick.
Playing for the second time in nine days, the second-seeded Green Knights used a pair of goals from Matt Plaziak and a combined 25 saves from Conor Hylton and Wade Conlan to defeat the top-seeded Green Dragons, 3-2, in the SCC/SWC Division I final at the Edward L. Bennett Rink Friday night.
With the win, Notre Dame, the eighth-ranked team in the latest GameTimeCT / New Haven Register Top 10 poll and winners of two of the first three meetings between the two teams, improved to 9-9-2 and avenged a Senior Night loss to the Green Dragons just over a week ago.
“This is huge for our team,” Plaziak said of the title. “We lost to them on Senior Night and we were able to come back tonight. We took this game real serious. Right now, the whole team is stoked.”
Sixth-ranked Hamden fell to 10-10-1 and will get a shot to even the season series, and more importantly continue its season, when the two teams square off in the opening round of the CIAC Division I state tournament Wednesday in Hamden.
“It was a great game,” Hamden coach Bill Verneris said. “It was one of those things where there were ups and downs in the game. There were a lot of chances by both teams. Each goalie played well. They each came up with big saves. It was an excellent hockey game. Congratulations to Notre Dame. They played a good game. It was a good school boy hockey game.”
Plaziak, who was named the Tournament Most Outstanding Player, got the Green Knights going quickly as he tucked in a backhander past Hamden goaltender Stephen Richetelli off the draw just 28 seconds into the contest for a 1-0 lead.
The Green Dragons came right back, needing just 3:55 into the game to draw even when Michael DeMatteis beat Hylton for the equalizer with a backhander in front.
“Obviously, Notre Dame and Hamden is an intense rivalry,” Verneris said. “A lot of the kids on the teams know each other. It makes for a good hockey game. I think the people got their money’s worth tonight.”
Notre Dame took a 2-1 lead with 7:54 remaining in the opening period, capitalizing on its first power play opportunity of the contest. Off assists from Vin Paolillo and Alec Andreucci, Joe Ansaldo beat Richetelli for the go-ahead goal and the Green Knights never trailed again.
Division II: Branford set to defend title vs. New Milford
“You do not always have an opportunity in life to play for a championship,” Notre Dame coach Tim Belcher said. “When you get the opportunity, you want to bring it home. Every time these kids walk down the halls of Notre Dame, they will see that plaque. They can say they were a part of that. That’s a big deal.”
Plaziak gave the Green Knights another quick start in the second period when he needed just 1:30 to give Notre Dame a 3-1 lead when Nicholas Abate’s point shot deflected off Plaziak past Richetelli for the two-goal lead.
“Matt is an energy kid,” Belcher said of Plaziak. “He brings it 100 percent every shift. He is not coming off the ice with any energy left. That says a lot about him.”
Hamden picked up its pace for the remainder of the period, outshooting the Green Knights 15-8 and getting within a goal with 6:16 left in the period when Christian Ugolik tapped in a rebound past Wade Conlan, just seconds after Conlan replaced Hylton in goal.
“I told them both to be prepared to play,” Belcher said of the two goaltenders. “We knew they were going to split the game. We need them both to be sharp in the states. It is one and done.”
The Green Dragons never got the equalizer. Despite a goal by Notre Dame’s Andreucci being wiped away with a Notre Dame penalty, Hamden could not beat Conlan again.
The Green Dragons had a pair of quality opportunities in the final three minutes of the game, but Conlan came up big, denying Ugolik with a blocker save with 1:35 left in the contest.
Hylton finished with 13 saves and Conlan added 12 in the win for Notre Dame. Richetelli finished with 26 saves in the loss for the Green Dragons.