Postponed from Wednesday by storm-related power outages, the New Canaan Rams season ended Thursday in the semifinal round of the state Division 1 Boys Hockey Tournament with a 4-3 loss to Fairfield Prep.
It was an emotional Rams lockerroom afterwards with Coach Bo Hickey reminding his team that, "This was a 22-win season and only four losses. We gave it everything tonight—in that last period it was everything but in." Hickey added, "Nobody should be disappointed—I thought it was a dead even game out there."
Both teams had a front line player sitting this one out. The Rams' Bo McGinniss was suspended for violating school policy off the ice and the Jesuits Jackson Bargiello sat after being ejected from his team's last game (an ejection results in a suspension for the next game).
The Rams did some juggling with Andrew Leslie moving from the front line into McGinniss' defensive spot. Leslie did return to his regular forward position later in the game.
"Leslie played 80 percent of the game on defense and then when we needed him he moved up," said Hickey. "
New Canaan opened the scoring when Tim Robustelli poked in a rebound of a Jimmy Joe Granito wrister just 2:42 into the opening period. Fairfield Prep tied the game late in the period. Bryan Puffer, one of many speedy skaters for the Jesuits, scored past Tim Nowacki.
The pace was up-tempo and evenly played throughout the entire game. The Jesuits were quick, not only with the puck, but to it as well. The first period ended 1-1 with the Rams holding a slight edge in shots-on-goal, 8-6.
It didn't take very long for the Jesuits to take the lead in the second period. Lucas Dennison controlled a puck out of the air and scored for a 2-1 lead. But Granito tied it a short time later with helpers from Tim Robustelli and Henry Richardson.
Three minutes later, Prep's Anthony Unker stole a pass in the Rams' zone and found room top shelf for a 3-2 lead after two.
The Jesuits scored another early goal to open the third period when Alex Matarazzo beat Nowacki up high for a 4-2 lead.
But the Rams made it a one-goal game again when Kris Nugent scored. Sam Stanton had corralled a rebound of a Brian Tohir shot, then fed the puck to Nugent who scored past Spencer Sodokoff.
The Rams had a good shot at tying the game when they had a 5-on-3 power play for 22-seconds, and then a 5-on-4 for the next 1:38, but they couldn't capitalize.
Players and coaches all agreed that the Rams "left it all out on the ice." Hickey said his team, "was a great bunch of kids with some great senior leadership."
Granito, who has another year, said, "Everyone who paid for a ticket tonight got his money's worth. Unfortunately we came up one-goal short."
"We played as hard as we could," said senior Henry Richardson. "To Prep's credit, they finished on scoring chances better than we did."
Fairfield Prep (18-3) will play defending champion Hamden (3-2 winners over Darien in the other semifinal game) for the CIAC championship on Saturday.
- New Canaan—Robustelli from Granito at 2:42
- Fairfield Prep—Puffer (unassisted) at 12:21
- Fairfield Prep—Dennison from White and Puffer at :18; Unker Carnicky at 7:51
- New Canaan—Granito from Robustelli and Richardson at 4:45
- Fairfield Prep—Matarazzo from Griffin at 1:17
- New Canaan—Nugent from Stanton and Tohir at 5:28
- New Canaan—Nowacki 22/26
- Fairfield Prep—Sodokoff 28/31