WEST HAVEN — For three years, Henry Stanton and his New Canaan teammates have been trying to defeat Notre Dame-West Haven. It may have taken until his senior year, but Wednesday’s contest against the Green Knights will be one Stanton and his teammates remember for quite a while.
Intercepting a clearing attempt by Notre Dame goaltender Justin Daddio just 1 minute, 9 seconds into overtime, Stanton easily scored a short-handed goal into an empty net to give the Rams a 4-3 overtime victory at the Edward L. Bennett Rink in the season opener for both teams.
“We know how good they are,” Stanton said after scoring three goals in the win. “Every year, we battle against them. They are a well-respected team. Everyone in that locker room has never beaten them. We wanted this game really bad. We worked really hard all game.”
Stanton’s heroics became necessary as the Green Knights battled back from a two-goal deficit with a pair of tallies in the final 5:46 against New Canaan goaltender MacLean Wright.
Trailing 3-1, Joe Ansaldo gave the Green Knights a spark when he picked up a rebound of a Patrick Francis shot and beat Wright to cut the deficit to 3-2.
New Canaan, ranked sixth in the New Haven Register Top 10 poll, took a pair of penalties and Notre Dame took advantage. Just 6 seconds after a two-man advantage expired, Matt Dumas scored on the power play to even the game at 3, forcing the overtime.
“I just told the guys I saw a lot of good things out there,” Notre Dame first-year coach Tim Belcher said. “I also saw some things we need to work on. It is never easy in an overtime game. They end quickly, especially for the team that loses.
“Justin (Daddio) did not lose that game for us. He was aggressive and was trying to make a play. It did not work out.”
The Green Knights, second in the Register poll, did not capitalize on their opportunities in the game, hitting the post three times and converting just one of seven power-play chances.
“We preached all week we had to finish our chances,” Belcher said. “Today, we had a bunch of chances, but did not finish.”
After New Canaan controlled play in the opening period, the Green Knights had the better of the play in the second period, but came away with a 1-1 tie.
New Canaan’s Peter Reinhardt was denied by Daddio on a partial breakaway, but Maxwell Begoon capitalized 43 seconds later. Just 5 seconds into a New Canaan power play, Begoon tallied for a 1-0 lead with 5:13 to go in the middle period.
The Green Knights evened the game before the period ended when Kyle Lynch set up Dumas with a perfect feed in front with 1:02 remaining in the middle period.
“We had a lot of opportunities,” Belcher said. “We hit four posts. We did not finish.”
Stanton was the story of the third period for the Rams, scoring twice for a 3-1 lead. Stanton’s first goal came on a wraparound to beat Daddio 3:21 into the third period for a 2-1 lead.
Just 1:19 later, Stanton was at it again. Picking up a loose puck and kicking it ahead with his skate, Stanton beat Daddio with a quick move for a 3-1 lead.
“It just starts with senior leadership,” Stanton said. “The seniors and juniors have to lead by example. We have two freshmen who have never played before out there. It starts with the seniors.”
Wright was sensational in goal for the Rams, denying numerous odd-man rushes by the Green Knights and several shots from in close. He may have made his best save in the third period when he denied Dumas on a two-on-one break with 9:32 remaining.
Wright finished the game with 36 saves, while Daddio made 27.