Jesuits Edge Notre Dame (WH) After Early 2-Goal Deficit
They’d been down before in the state tournament. Fairfield Prep ended up where it ended up all year: on top. The Jesuits won their 15th state title, all since 1977, with a 3-2 win over Notre Dame-West Haven at Yale’s Ingalls Rink. It was an instant classic of a game won in the third period after Notre Dame took an early 2-0 lead.
“I thought we were really tough,” said Jesuits coach Matt Sather, who won his eighth title as coach since 2000. “We got down to Hamden. We were down today. Things were not going our way in the Ridgefield game.” The Jesuits didn’t fold. Matt Wikman, a junior, deflected in the goal that began the comeback, and he pounced on a rebound with 6:26 left to win it. The winner came just after a penalty kill, as senior defenseman Kevin Brown went to the box with 8:37 left. Sather knew it could work both ways for his team, end things or spark the Jesuits.
The spark came after a Matt Beck save at the end of the holding minor. Dean Lockery cleared the rebound out of the slot for a three-on-one. David White carried around defenders. “Dave did his thing, dangling,” Wikman said. “He put one out front for Dean, he hit the post, and it came right out to me.” Paul Sliwinski had little chance on the rebound and was stellar otherwise, making 28 saves. Beck made 20 with several big stops of his own. The Jesuits won two regular-season meetings with Notre Dame as well as the Southern Connecticut Conference playoff title; the conference played a championship game this year for the first time in over a decade. “God bless ’em,” Notre Dame coach Bill Gerosa said. “They beat us four times this year, they deserve to win. I really enjoyed this game, the whole game. It was a terrific game. The crowd was into it.”
The Jesuits’ only loss was to Catholic Memorial, 27 days before the state final. They went 18-0 against Connecticut competition and 23-1 overall. The defending champions, Notre Dame finished 18-6-1. “We lost four or five good players, but we were able to regroup,” Gerosa said. “We just came up a goal short today. I’m very, very proud of my boys.” The Green Knights led early. Lou Iannotti scored from above the left circle 7:34 into the game, off a post and in. Bill Vizzo scored at 8:57 on a wrister from the left side. That was all the Jesuits allowed, with Beck making saves and four senior defensemen — Brown, Sean Henry, Andrew Hatton and Billy D’Amore — settling in to play a solid game. “To log that time, they were awesome,” Sather said. Wikman deflected home Henry’s shot on a power play in the first period. White had the second assist and finished with 150 points in his four years.
Mike Ventricelli tied it on a two-on-one in the second. Wikman’s second goal won it, sending nine Jesuits seniors off with a title. “I think the nine of them, especially the eight guys who’ve been with us for three or four years, making that commitment to high school hockey is something a lot of people can learn a lesson from,” Sather said. “There are a lot of people looking for a better thing. They don’t realize the best thing is right here. Notre Dame has a lot of seniors, too (nine also); credit to them.”