Notre Dame rallies past New Canaan in Div. I hockey playoffs

The situation was looking bleak for the Notre Dame-Fairfield Lancers early in the second period of their first-round ice hockey playoff game against New Canaan.

The Rams were soaring, having just taken a 3-1 lead with their second power play goal, and Notre Dame was back on its heels. That’s when the Lancers rallied the troops.

Notre Dame-Fairfield scored three unanswered goals and rallied for a 6-4 victory in the CIAC Div. I playoffs Wednesday night at the Milford Ice Pavilion.

The Rams did show some life in the third period, when Tyler Hill set up Kyle Mettler for a goal to knot the score at 4-4, but Notre Dame’s Tyler English scored the game-winner with 3:40 remaining. Then, Michael Antoniou’s empty-netter sealed the deal with 40.8 seconds on the clock.

“Our mentality is one shift at a time, one goal at a time,” Lancers’ head coach Steve Hetherman said. “You can’t score two or three goals in one shift, so let’s just slow it down and get one at a time. They bought into it and we clawed back. We were fortunate. They had a lot of power play opportunities and our PK was probably the all-star tonight.”

The fifth-seeded Lancers (12-9) will now take on fourth-seeded Glastonbury (16-4-1) in the quarterfinals at 1 p.m., Saturday at Bennett Rink in West Haven. Glastonbury edged Northwest Catholic, 2-1, on Wednesday.

For the Rams, it was a “what could have been” story, as they couldn’t sustain their early momentum.

“We took our foot off the pedal,” New Canaan head coach Pat Gore said. “When you have a two-goal lead, you eventually get to the point where you’re going to play more defensive and sit back, but we were a long way away from that. We stopped moving our feet, we started backing away from it when they had the puck.”

Nick Carloto had a goal and three assists for NDFF; while Antoniou had two goals and one assist; English had two goals; Ryan Gawricki had one goal and one assist; and Jonny Suporn had two assists. Goalie Will Scovill collected 27 saves.

“This could have gone either way,” Hetherman said. “Coach Gore does a great job and the kids were ready to play. His kids did a fabulous job. We were lucky just to hold the proverbial fort.”

New Canaan, the No. 12 seed, finished the season with a 12-8-3 record. The Rams had a big night from Hill, who had a hand in all four of their goals, scoring twice and assisting twice. Mettler had a goal and an assist, Max Begoon scored once, and Patrick Hompe, James Franzis, and George McMahon had one assist apiece. Goalie Liam Mooney made 22 saves.

“This game kind of symbolized our season,” Gore said. “It’s tough for the kids because for portions of this game, we played like a top five team in the state of Connecticut. If we played like that all year, teams wouldn’t want to touch us. Unfortunately, we just didn’t do enough to get it done.”

New Canaan came out of the gate flying with some help from the Lancers, who couldn’t stay out of the penalty box. Notre Dame had five penalties in the first period, the last coming at the horn to set up a 5-on-3 advantage for the Rams to start the second stanza.

The Rams cashed in on their first power play opportunity early in the first period, when Begoon scored from the point after receiving a pass from Hill. Begoon’s slapshot hit Scovill’s pads and popped into the goal for a 1-0 lead.

The Lancers killed their next penalty and then scored on a power play of their own at 9:01, when Carloto deposited the puck in the net during a scramble in front of the Rams’ net.

New Canaan regained the lead at 13:42 when Mettler got the puck to Hill, who skated across the front of the net and scored into the open left side.

The Lancers continued to be their own worst enemies late in the period, as Justin Dupuis went to the box on a cross check with 11.1 seconds on the clock, and Carloto joined him on a tripping call at the end of the period.

Armed with a two-man advantage, the Rams scored again when Hill scored on a rebound at the 1:14 mark, making it a 3-1 game. Hompe and the defenseman Franzis assisted on the play.

New Canaan couldn’t add to that lead during the remaining time on the power play, but it still kept the heat turned up on Scovill and the defense. The Rams nearly had their fourth goal at the seven-minute mark, but Scovill blocked a tough shot by Casey Begoon and then covered up a rebound attempt by Cooper Manchuck.

A tripping call on Teddy O’Rourke gave the Lancers a power play with 5:42 to go in the period, and they scored 40 seconds later when Antoniou hit the net to make it 3-2.

The equalizer came with 37.3 seconds on the clock, as Notre Dame countered a New Canaan rush and English scored.

The momentum continued in the Lancers’ favor when Gawricki scored unassisted at 3:35 of the third period. Gawricki blazed up the left side and through the circle, scoring top shelf to beat Mooney and give Notre Dame its first lead at 4-3.

New Canaan came tantalizingly close to tying the score several times during the next few minutes, including on a shot by Hompe that hit the left pipe.

Mettler finally got the Rams back on the board with a goal, assisted by Hill, to tie the game at 4-4 with 6:56 remaining.

However, the Lancers’ game-winner came with 3:40 to play when a Carloto shot was blocked by Mooney and English was in perfect position for the rebound, putting it high into the goal.

“That was a pretty play,” Hetherman said. “He has good hands, he’s one of our better skaters and he did the right thing. He went to net, the puck came to him and he roofed it. It’s nice when they get rewarded. You preach it in practice and then you see them do it and it’s like ‘maybe they’ll do it more’.”

An interference penalty on Notre Dame’s Seamus O’Rourke with 1:44 remaining gave the Rams a power play, and New Canaan head coach Pat Gore pulled Mooney to make it a 6-on-4, but the Lancers iced the victory on an empty-netter by Antoniou with 40.8 seconds to go.

Notre Dame-Fairfield 6, New Canaan 4

CIAC Div. I Playoffs, First Round at Milford Ice Pavilion

First Period

NC – Max Begoon, assisted by Tyler Hill, power play, 3:44

ND – Nick Carloto, assisted by Michael Antoniou and Jonny Suporn, power play, 9:01

NC – Tyler Hill, assisted by George McMahon and Kyle Mettler, 13:42

Second Period

NC – Tyler Hill, assisted by James Franzis and Patrick Hompe, power play, 1:14

ND – Michael Antoniou, assisted by Jonny Suporn and Nick Carloto, power play, 9:58

ND – Tyler English, assisted by Ryan Gawricki and Nick Carloto, 14:23

Third Period

ND – Ryan Gawricki, unassisted, 3:35

NC – Kyle Mettler, assisted by Tyler Hill, 8:04

ND – Tyler English, assisted by Ryan Gawricki and Nick Carloto, 11:20

ND – Michael Antoniou, unassisted, empty net, 14:19

New Canaan’s Kyle Mettler (12) battles Notre Dame’s Landon Gabriele (10) and Seamus O’Rourke (15) during the first round of the CIAC Div. I boys hockey playoffs Wednesday in Milford. (Dave Stewart/Hersam Acorn Photo)

New Canaan’s Kyle Mettler (12) battles Notre Dame’s Landon Gabriele (10) and Seamus O’Rourke (15) during the first round of the CIAC Div. I boys hockey playoffs Wednesday in Milford. (Dave Stewart/Hersam Acorn Photo)

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