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Jesuits ascend to top

Fairfield Prep junior goalie Matt Beck knew that he had to step into the breach this year and become the Jesuits’ last line of defense.
Saturday afternoon, while his team was enjoying an early 1-0 lead on Matt Wikman’s own rebound goal at 3:11,  Beck faced what would be the first of many challenges in his team’s showdown contest against No. 1 ranked Notre Dame-West Haven before a capacity crowd of 1,350 at West Haven’s Bennett Rink.
Notre Dame’s Ryan Lynch of Milford, a second-line forward came bearing down on Beck. It was a one-on-one challenge for the Westport keeper in a very big game between the two undefeated teams.
Beck snared Lynch’s low shot with his glove hand. Prep went on to score two more first-period goals en route to a 3-1 win, which gave the Jesuits’ seven straight wins and the top ranking in this week’s top 10 poll. to open the season. It was ND’s first loss after seven wins.
“For me, the save was huge,” Beck said. “I was able to give our team a chance to win. It was all about momentum in this game. I think that we, as a team, made a statement right there.
“I had to stay calm and be patient. I had to let him make the first move. I saw that he was a lefty and I figured he’d go that way (to my left).”
Beck made four stops in the first period, including three others where Knights were on the doorstep. He closed out the game with 33 saves.
“Mattie was spectacular for us,” Prep coach Matt Sather said. “He definitely was the difference, all the way through.”
Following Wickman’s goal and Beck’s save, the Jesuits got two more scores.
First-line right wing Connor Henry from Trumbull beat ND goalie Luc Amatruda (30 saves) with a high wrist shot from 15 feet out at 8:56 and Dean Lockery knocked in an attempt from in close at 12:45.
David White from Fairfield set up Henry’s goal with some nifty stick work, and Wikman and Kenny Kochiss from Stratford assisted on Lockery’s goal.
Wikman, whose brother Riley, was the Jesuits’ goalie last year, had a goal and one assist.
The Knights outshot Prep 10-9 in the first period and had a 34-33 edge for the game.
Darren’s Copabianco’s score from the point at 12:38 of the second period, was the only shot to get past Beck.
“We didn’t skate well for the entire game,” Sather said. “They outplayed us for part of the first period and for all of the second and third periods.
“We came in here with too much raw emotion. I thought we got wrapped up in a street fight when we didn’t need to.”
The game, however, was virtually penalty free.
Capobianco took a tripping call at 1:56 of the opening period, leading to Wikman’s power-play goal, and ND’s Brendan Morley was sent off for interference at 7:43 of the second session.
Knights’ coach Bill Gerosa, who coached his team to a Division I state title last year, was disappointed.
“We haven’t shown up for a first period yet this year, especially on defense,” Gerosa said. “I can’t quite pinpoint the reason. Maybe we need an attitude adjustment.
“Against a team like Prep, we have to have a good start. We did play well, but it came after we were down, 3-0. We were lackadaisical, and then the light went on.”
Beck thought his team, which captured the Mount St. Charles tournament last week with three wins, came in ready.
“We were prepared to face a fast-and-skilled team like Notre Dame today,” he said. “I think that the teams we faced up there (St. John’s Prep, LaSalle Academy and Delbarton) had a little more depth. We played well there and jelled as a team.”

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