By Jimmy Zanor
@ShoreLineSports on Twitter
MIDDLETOWN >> Powered by a goal from senior Andrew Meoli and a shutout by freshman goalkeeper Jared Guidobono, who was making his first career start, Xavier snapped a four-game losing streak with a 1-0 victory over North Branford Wednesday night at Wesleyan’s Spurrier-Snyder Rink.
“We’re struggling right now,” said Xavier coach Dan DeConti. “We’re inconsistent as it is and then our confidence is shot losing four-in-a-row so to come out and get the shots on net and then to fight for a win was great.”
After a scoreless first period, Xavier applied relentless pressure on the Thunderbirds early in the second period and Meoli was able to tuck one in behind T-birds freshman goalie Will McEwen just 1:19 into the stanza. Hunter Wilcox and Adam Aresco had the assists on Meoli’s goal.
Bryan Stanton and John Kelly also had scoring chances early in the second period.
Despite getting outshot, 31-12, the T-birds, who have lost four straight, blanked the Falcons the rest of the way.
“I’m real happy with the effort we put forth tonight,” said North Branford coach Ralph Shaw. “We’ve been slumping a little bit and that was the effort that we talked about in the locker room before the game. We’re going to have to work every time we step on the ice. I thought we played pretty physical and aggressive hockey.”
The T-birds (4-5) got a huge lift from McEwen, who had his best moments in the third period when he thwarted Meoli’s scoring bid and then made back-to-back saves on shorthanded chances by Aresco and Kelly.
McEwen finished with 30 saves.
“We talked before the game about let’s give Will a good look at the puck and let’s pick up traffic in front of the net and move them out of the way,” Shaw explained. “He made the saves you need to make tonight, and he made a couple of flashy ones. I’m just happy with his play, especially tonight.”
McEwen’s counterpart also came up big.
Xavier junior goalie Ben Guidobono was hurt in Xavier’s 5-2 loss against New Canaan last Monday so younger brother Jared stepped in.
“That was a big game for Jared,” said DeConti. “We figured let’s give him a shot and see what he’s got. That third period he came up with a couple of huge saves. He came through for us.”
North Branford’s best chance came off the stick off senior Nick Johnson, who rifled a shot on net at the end of a power play but Guidobono (12 saves) made the stop with 4:23 remaining.
“It’s a great experience for us to come out and play a D-1 team and I thought we did very well,” added Shaw.
For Xavier (4-7), things don’t get any easier. The Falcons play five consecutive road games against Fairfield Prep, East Haven, LaSalle Academy (R.I.), No. 1 Notre Dame-West Haven, who’ve defeated Xavier twice this season, including a 4-3 overtime contest on Jan. 18, and St. John’s-Shrewsbury (Ma.), who topped the Falcons, 5-1, two weeks ago.
“It’s going to get a lot tougher,” said DeConti. “We’re looking for answers right now. We’ve just got to start competing and play consistent hockey.”