First state title well deserved

Fairfield celebrates winning its first boys hockey state title at Yale's Ingalls Rink. (Photo by Bill Bloxsom)

Fairfield celebrates winning its first boys hockey state title at Yale’s Ingalls Rink. (Photo by Bill Bloxsom)

Fairfield Warde/Ludlowe boys hockey coach Mark Pettorini had one thing to say to his team before his Mustangs took the ice for an overtime session with the Division II state championship on the line — “You guys deserve this thing…Go out and get it.”
Kevin Robinson made it happen when the junior scored on a penalty shot to give Fairfield a 4-3 victory over East Catholic of Manchester at Yale’s Ingalls Rink on March 20.
For Robinson, it was his fourth goal of the game, and for the Mustangs, it was the program’s first state title.
“I think it is well-deserved,” Pettorini said. “There were some funky calls, it was a little emotional, but I think fate went in the right direction.
“The best way to sum it up is we had (team) goals and we hit all of them. Our seed, our record didn’t show how we had played.”
Fairfield (13-10) was seeded 13th and had already knocked off No. 4 Watertown/Pomperaug 3-2, No. 5 Branford 4-3 in two overtimes, and No. 9 Branford 3-1.
Second-seeded East Catholic (18-5) had cruised past three foes by a combined score of 14-3.
When an East Catholic player fell on a loose puck in the goal crease, Fairfield was awarded a penalty shot with 5:18 remaining in the 15-minute sudden-victory overtime.
Robinson toed the red line and East Catholic’s Tommy Usseglio took his place between the pipes.
“As soon as the goalie came out I knew I had to deke him, because he wasn’t going to give me a shot,” Robinson said after he skated to the Eagle goalie’s right and tucked the puck into the net.
“It’s an unreal feeling (scoring four goals in a state final). It’s every kid’s dream.”
The Fairfield faithful exploded in cheers and the Mustang bench emptied onto the ice, sure that this time the dream win was secure.
Fairfield looked to have won the game at the final horn, but Tom Kryspin’s goal in a scramble was waved off when the goal light never flashed, an indication that time had run off the clock.
Fairfield retired to its dressing room and the question asked around the buzzing rink was how would the Mustangs respond to the Wide World of Sports ‘Thrill of victory and the agony of defeat,’ moment.
There was no lag in energy or execution by the Mustangs.
“We came out we had a great first period, second period they kind of took it to us a little, Pettorini said. “Pretty much the motivation was this (overtime) was it.”
Pettorini had juggled three lines and a handful of top-flight defenseman all season, so the Mustangs believed they were well suited to the situation.
“We had so much momentum after dominating the third period, we had to keep dominating and just took over,” junior defenseman Conor Scharlop said.
“We have three strong offensive lines that can flat out play, and five defenseman that get it done every period.”
Scharlop and Tim Grace got the start on defense, followed by Dan Silvestri, Zach Weinstein and Matt Stern.
Mike Aqulia centered the first line of Charlie Medor and Kryspin.
Kyle Greenhut made 21 saves in net for Fairfield, as the sophomore matched Usseglio, his junior counterpart. Many of Usseglio’s 31 saves had the East Catholic faithful bowing in homage toward their keeper.
Robinson, Kyle Scheetz and Jack O’Rourke made up the second line, with Paul Barlow, Chris Logan and Austin Armas providing the coup de grace on the third line.
Silvestri said, “We have 13 seniors and eight juniors with experience. Getting to run three lines allows us to tire teams down in the third period.
“We did that tonight in the third (an 11-2 edge in shots) and in overtime. It’s what we’ve done all year.”
To get late into the game, Fairfield had to overcome a talented East Catholic club, and Robinson gave the Mustangs a leg up with goals at 1:45 and 11:01 of the first period. Scharlop had both assists.
The Eagles made it 2-1 on Alex Manner’s power-play goal with 49 seconds remaining in the opening period.
East Catholic scored twice in the second period, at 5:52 and 8:52, to put Fairfield in a hole.
The Mustangs rallied back by starting to attack from their own zone.
“Our defense was doing a great job technique-wise,” Perttorini said. “But, they are all good skaters and I told them to move their feet and bring the puck up the ice.
“We started making quicker passes and began to tire them out.”
O’Rourke led a persistent forechecking shift by Fairfield and Robinson scored unassisted at 5:31 of the third to tie things at 3.
“We started to throw our weight around and began to rush the puck up in transition,” Robinson said of the game’s final 25-plus minutes.
“We wanted to get to Yale for our seniors and we wanted to win (the title) as a team.
“You have to give big props to Kyle. When Connor (Frawley) got hurt we needed him and he came through (four straight wins).”
Pettorini agreed.
“Kyle made all the big saves,” he said. “I told Frawley that he got us here. He gets us our eight wins and my second goaltender steps up. That’s what makes a team.”

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