DARIEN -- For the season opener, both teams wanted to make a statement.
Notre Dame-West Haven, the defending state champions, wanted to show that they are still king of the hill. The youthful Rams, meanwhile, wanted to prove that they can go toe to toe with anyone. In the end, both teams made their point.
Clearly, the Green Knights have not lost their championship luster, walking away from Darien Ice Rink with a 2-0 victory Wednesday evening.
"New Canaan came to play," Notre Dame head coach Bill Gerosa said. "They played their hearts out, and that Koennecke kid was tremendous. My hats off to them; they made us work hard."
`That Koennecke kid' is, of course, New Canaan's goalie and captain Chris Koennecke, who was a brick wall between the pipes, turning away 27 shots.
The pivotal goal in the game came at the end -- and truly the end -- of the second period. With less than a half second to play, Notre Dame's Billy Vizzo passed the puck through traffic to teammate Jesse Ruocco, who stuffed it in the net as the buzzer sounded.
"New Canaan was collapsing around the net, and we couldn't get as many shots off," Ruocco said. "So I went on the far side where Billy Vizzo worked hard, got it to the net and I just hit it home."
As the game progressed, New Canaan's momentum kept building. By the third period, the Rams were swarming in the Notre Dame zone and creating multiple scoring chances.
The Rams, however, could not get past Green Knight goalie Luciano Amatruda, who was equally brilliant on his end of the ice.
Neither team scored on their respective power plays. Notre Dame was 0-for-2 with a man advantage, and the Rams went 0-for-4, including a one-minute stretch midway through the second period in which they owned a two-man advantage.
With just 16 seconds remaining in the final period, Vizzo put away an empty netter to shut the door on the game.
"I thought they played very well, especially in the third," New Canaan head coach Bo Hickey said of his team. "And one bounce, and all of a sudden it's a 1-1 game. You can't ask for more."
New Canaan co-captain Puck Richardson also saw a silver lining in the game.
"We are pretty disappointed. We had a lot of chances, and that goal with 0.5 seconds left was a killer, but we have a really young team, and this is a learning game for a lot of the guys," Richardson said. "Toward the end of the game we started getting the puck on the net and getting chances; I think we'll build on that in the next couple days of practice."
Hickey was generally positive about what this game taught his young team.
"We had six or seven sophomores taking regular shifts for the first time," Hickey said. "Everything that we did wrong is correctable. Positioning is the big thing to work on. We were out of position a lot of times in the defensive zone, but it is all correctable."
Up next, the Rams travel to Hamden on Saturday at 2:30 p.m., while the Green Knights visit Greenwich on Saturday at 6:45 p.m.
NOTRE DAME-WEST HAVEN 2, NEW CANAAN 0
Notre Dame-West Haven 0 1 1--2
New Canaan 0 0 0--0
Records: Notre Dame-West Haven 1-0, New Canaan 0-1.
Goals: ND--Jesse Ruocco, Billy Vizzo. Assists: ND--Vizzo, Gregory Zullo. Goalies: ND-- Luciano Amatruda (11 saves); NC--Chris Koennecke (27); Shots: ND--29; NC--11.