Facing a three-goal deficit in a recent game against New Canaan certainly didn’t cause the Fairfield Co-Op boys hockey team to panic or fold.
Instead, Fairfield added the Rams to a list of opponents that it has unleashed its offensive arsenal against.
A 7-5 comeback win against New Canaan, a team it defeated for the first time since the 2017-18 season, followed by last night’s 4-3 win over perennial power Darien, improved the consolidated team of players from Warde and Ludlowe to 6-0. Averaging six goals per game, while yielding just over two, Fairfield has opened eyes with its performance. Yet the impressive start isn’t surprising to coach Carl Larouche’s squad.
“It was expected that this would be a good year for us,” Larouche said. “Most of the juniors and seniors have been with us for a few years. We have three strong lines that any can play with any team and our goalie is doing well. I kept saying to people, ‘We have a good team here.’ ”
Besides beating New Canaan, among Fairfield’s five victories is a 5-3 triumph against Ridgefield — a team that also has gotten the best of Fairfield in the past.
“Over the last 20 games, we had only won one game against Ridgefield, so that was only the second time we beat Ridgefield,” Larouche said. “That was a good win by us.”
Fairfield scored five goals or more in each of its first five games before last night.
“We scrimmaged New Canaan and it was a 1-1 tie, so we knew it was going to be a good game,” Larouche said. “They were able to score the first three goals, but we didn’t panic, we just kept playing our game. It was a very entertaining game.”
Though Fairfield allowed five goals against New Canaan, it has yielded just nine in its other five games, behind stellar play from its group of defensemen and goalies. Senior Sam Swanson, sophomore Noah Kingsley, senior Brady Pomer and Andrew Shavinsky have sparked the squad defensively, while also chipping in offensively.
“They are aggressive and they are pinching as much as they can,” Larouche said of his defensemen.
Opponents have struggled against Fairfield while on a power play.
“We are good at the penalty kill, our system is very aggressive and we don’t give teams time to set up,” Larouche said. “Our forecheck is pretty aggressive too. We try to limit time and space.”
Senior John Grace has provided rock-solid play in goal for Fairfield, which has received balanced goal-scoring from its first two lines of Rhys Davies, Finn Hoey (three goals, two assists against New Canaan), Charlie Swanson, Bobby Winter, Brendan Carney and Matthew Jankovsky.
“On those top two lines, everyone has six or seven points,” Larouche said. “Jankovsky is probably the fastest skater in the state. Our third line doesn’t have a problem scoring goals either.”
John Valillo, Ryan Tymon and Liam Forrest have paced the team’s third line, which has spent a lot of time in the opposition’s zone.
“The key for us is to win faceoffs and take possession of the puck,” Larouche said. “Each game, we want to have the puck at least 60-65 percent of the game, while still playing good defense when we don’t have the puck. Backchecking and avoiding odd-man rushes are also points of emphasis.”
Fairfield, which is seeking its first FCIAC hockey championship, could have made a strong run in the state tournament, had there been one this season. Yet the team is just focused on the schedule ahead.
“Our team doesn’t use excuses, we are just happy to be there on the ice and happy to have a short season,” Larouche said. “The culture on our team has been positive, we don’t really talk about not having a state tournament, we are just so happy to be playing.”
Like all teams, Fairfield has adjusted to the shortened season, which includes COVID-19 protocols.
“All locker rooms are pretty special, that’s where teams bond, talk and get ready mentally to play a game,” Larouche said. “We can’t use our locker room, so instead we set up a tent for the players to meet after they are fully dressed. Now they are pretty happy.”
Another game against Darien, two meetings with Greenwich and matchups against New Canaan, Ridgefield and St. Joseph remain on Fairfield’s schedule.
“New Canaan, Ridgefield, Darien, they’ve all kind of had our number in the past, but every year we have gotten better,” Larouche said. “Hopefully, we’ll continue to improve. The future is promising on the team, with eight seniors, four juniors, seven sophomores and two freshmen. I have 19 players on the junior varsity team as well, so I am excited about what I am seeing.”