BOYS' HOCKEY: Notre Dame-West Haven beats Xavier to capture West Haven Christmas Tournament (photos)
WEST HAVEN — For 38 minutes in Monday afternoon’s West Haven Christmas Tournament championship game, Xavier gave Notre Dame-West Haven all it could handle, and more. The problem for the Falcons was the Green Knights owned the final 7 minutes.
Wearing down the Falcons with its depth and scoring three times in the final 6:41, No. 1 Notre Dame pulled away and defeated No. 6 Xavier 5-2 at Bennett Rink.
“They got tired at the end,” Notre Dame coach Bill Gerosa said. “One of our strengths is our depth. We felt they took it to us in the first period and we were lucky to get out of there tied at 1. They are well-coached and well-drilled.”
The title was Notre Dame’s second straight in the Christmas tournament and the 6-0 Green Knights will welcome Darien and Fairfield Prep to town in the next five days.
“It is big for us to win this tournament as it is a West Haven tournament,” Gerosa said. “We are pleased to be back in it after so many years. This is the best rink in the state to play hockey with the loud crowd and the ice is great.
“We are just taking it game by game. We have a tough week ahead of us. This was a very difficult game for us with Darien coming here on Wednesday and Fairfield Prep on Saturday. We have a long week ahead.”
With the game even at 2 after Xavier’s Bryan Stanton ripped a shot to the top right corner past Notre Dame goaltender Paul Sliwinski with 1:02 gone by in the third period, the Green Knights turned to some new faces and a veteran to take the game away.
After Xavier goaltender Shane Baldwin denied Greg Zullo in front with a glove save, the Green Knights continued the pressure and finally took the lead with 6:41 remaining in the third period. Junior Patrick Francis picked up a rebound of sophomore Ryan Lynch’s shot and beat Baldwin to an open net for a 3-2 lead.
Just 1:58 later, the Green Knights added an insurance goal when sophomore Kyle Lynch beat Baldwin with an unassisted goal in front.
William Vizzo added the knockout punch 58 seconds later with an unassisted goal for a 5-2 lead, completing a string of three goals in 2:56.
“We feel we are a solid team with a lot of depth,” Vizzo said after scoring twice. “We worked hard and everything went right today. Winning this is good for us. It is something positive and will make us stronger for the rest of the season.”
The strong third period helped Notre Dame erase the early part of the game which saw Xavier control play for a large part of the contest. Despite the Falcons having the better of the opportunities early, the game remained scoreless as Sliwinski denied Ryan McLellan in front with a glove save 55 seconds in and John Burkinshaw with a pad save five minutes later.
“I just came out and challenged them,” Sliwinski said after finishing with 28 saves. “I just tried to take away their angles. When the other goalie is playing well, you have to match the other goalie’s intensity.”
Sliwinski’s effort allowed the Green Knights to regroup and take a 1-0 lead when Darren Capobianco fed Vizzo with a perfect pass and Vizzo beat Baldwin between the pads with 4:34 left in the opening period. The Falcons evened the game 1:30 later when Dan Dupont scored off a rebound just six seconds into a power play.
Zullo gave the Green Knights a 2-1 lead with an unassisted goal with 6:25 left in the middle period, setting up the third-period dramatics.
“They are a good, solid team,” Xavier coach Scott Gainey said after his team fell to 4-2. “I thought we did a good job and were strong for 90 percent of the game. It is that last 10 percent where they cashed in. They are very good.”
Zullo finished with a goal and an assist and Capobianco had two assists in the win for Notre Dame. Stanton had a goal and an assist for Xavier and Baldwin finished with 30 saves.