Fairfield staying with best teams

The Fairfield Warde/Ludlowe Co-op hockey team showed just how tough it could be down the stretch of the season, as the locals were edged out 2-1 on Saturday at the Shelton Rink by the 14-4 St. Joseph Cadets.
The Mustangs were 2-4 on the season before ripping off a five-game winning streak, including three shut outs in a row to get back in the playoff picture.
But the Fairfield co-op (8-9) has run into hard times dropping four of the last five, and three in a row with Saturday’s set back to St. Joseph.
“We played hard the whole game and I’m proud of our effort, Fairfield head coach Mark Pettorini said.
“It would have helped if we could have stayed out of the penalty box a little more. It certainly could have gone in the other direction.
“They played well, we played well and it would have been a different outcome if we could have converted on a few early opportunities that we had.”
St. Joseph was celebrating Senior Night, but the Mustangs were not cooperating with the festive mood and came out physical looking to take the Cadets out of their game.
Kyle Greenhut (31 saves) in goal was up for the challenge, and the hard-nosed play of Tim Grace, Dan Silvestri, Chris Logan and P.J. O’Reilly helped to keep the Cadets off the scoreboard in the opening period.
The Mustangs saw a sure opportunity slip away in the final minute of the first period when Mike Aquila and Paul Barlow skated in on a brief open net only to have Cadets goalie Marc Van Etten (17 saves) recover to slap it out of harm’s way.
Jack O’Rourke and Matt Stern teamed up with Zach Weinstein and Charlie Meder to disrupt a couple of Cadet advances down the ice, as Fairfield was getting the job done shutting down St. Joseph through the midway point of the second period.
“Both teams seemed to have trouble gaining a lot of momentum going the other way,” Pettorini said. “That was the result of both teams going after one another and the ice was a little soft. But, down the stretch everything started to work in their favor.”
St. Joseph was the aggressor, getting off 33 shots to only 17 for the Mustangs, and that persistent effort finally paid off at 7:40 mark of the second period when Dom DeRosa slid a pass under the stick of a defenseman and Zach Usinger buried it just inside the post for a 1-0 Cadet lead.
Greenhut picked off a few more opportunities to keep Fairfield in the game as the second period wound to a close.
And, with 3:59 left in the period Fairfield’s Conor Scharlop found an opening in the defense and laid a pass onto the stick of Kyle Scheetz.
The shot beat Van Etten to the far post to tie the game at 1.
Both teams survived a couple of penalties in the period and headed into the last stanza deadlocked.
Van Etten had his hands full at the start of the third period, with Tom Kryspin, Kevin Robinson and Austin Armas teaming up to put shots on goal. Three saves in a three-minute span kept the game tied.
With 7:22 to play, St. Joseph’s Christian Keator had a pass deflected off the boards and Usinger was heads up picking it off the boards and driving it past the outstretched glove of Greenhut, who made a valiant dive for the save attempt.
The 2-1 St. Joseph lead held up down the stretch, as the Cadets spread the ice limiting the Mustangs chances.
“This is probably the toughest part of our schedule right now,” Pettorini said. “These types of games so late in the season against Division I clubs is always good to pull a positive out of them.”
Fairfield is looking to hang a few more check marks in the win column  in preparation for the state tournament.
The Mustangs are back in action at Norwalk-McMahon and then travel to take on Branford on Saturday. They conclude the regular season next week home to Amity-Woodbridge.

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