STAMFORD -- In overtime playoff hockey, it can all be over in the blink of an eye.
Such was the case in Wednesday night's FCIAC semifinals clash between No. 2-seeded St. Joseph and No. 3-seeded New Canaan at Terry Conners Ice Rink.
4:19 into sudden death, St. Joseph defenseman senior defenseman Sean Smith rifled a shot from just inside the blue line that gave his team a 3-2 win over New Canaan on a top shelf goal that propelled the Cadets into Saturday's FCIAC championship game against the winner of No. 4 Ridgefield against No. 1 Darien at Terry Conners.
"Dom Sidorczuk skates by, leaves a drop pass, I just rip a shot and all I see is go right over the goalie's head. I've never felt so much excitement in my life," Smith said. "I'm not a goal-scorer. We started a little slow, but overall it was a great game."
It was also St. Joseph's first lead of the night.
"I think we actually played really well. If we play like we did today (in states), I'd be really proud of my team," Richardson said. "We certainly had our chances, but we weren't able to capitalize. It's rough but it's just something that happens in sports. It's a tough feeling to have."
With 1:57 left in regulation and the game tied 2-2, St. Joseph was awarded a powerplay. The Cadets produced four shots on the man advantage, but strong goaltending by Chris Koennecke, including a tough save on Andrew Gore, and some timely clears by the penalty kill allowed the Rams to force the game to sudden death.
"To be honest, we felt pretty confident going into the overtime," Richardson said. "I had a lot of confidence that we'd be able to put it away, but unfortunately they got the game-winner."
"Anything can happen with a bounce of the puck here and there. It was a good clean game and both teams had opportunities. It's good that (the game-winner) wasn't a garbage goal," St. Joseph coach Marty Crouse said. "It's hard when it comes to (overtime). It's a tie game in overtime and it's anybody's game no matter who you're playing. You just hope it goes your way."
The first goal of the game was set up by New Canaan defenseman Trent Nader, who broke up a 3-on-1 St. Joseph rush. Seconds later, Richardson assisted Stanton for the 1-0 lead with 8:44 to play in the first.
"Puck made a nice drop pass, I tried to put it low and just got it past the right pad of the goalie," Stanton said. "It's definitely a tough one to swallow, but sometimes the puck doesn't bounce your way. We get these guys in the first round for states, so we're definitely going to come back harder than we've ever come before."
Just over two minutes later, the Cadets drew even when Ryan Corcoran found Filippo Petrini for the game-tying goal.
Both teams had a powerplay opportunity apiece and came close to scoring in the second period, buts strong goaltending by Koennecke and St. Joseph goalie Marc VanEtten resulted in a scoreless middle stanza.
In one instance, VanEtten allowed the puck to get by him, but quickly pounced on it just before it could cross the goal line. Koennecke also made a difficult save when Petrini set up Sidorczuk for a one-timer.
St. Joseph had 1:20 left on a powerplay to begin the third, but Koennecke thwarted the Cadets' best scoring chance when he denied a stuff-in attempt by Landon Gabriele.
New Canaan got a powerplay opportunity of its own and converted when Luke Amero and Richardson assisted Stanton for his second goal. Stanton's deflection attempt drew iron, but he got to his own rebound and put it home for the 2-1 lead with 12:03 to play.
"Physical game, good passing, good shooting. Personally, I thought we should have had three in the first period because we missed two open nets," New Canaan coach Bo Hickey said. "We'll get healthy (for the state tournament) and we'll prepare."
Less than two minutes later, St. Joseph again found the equalizer when Christian Keator scored unassisted.
"It was discouraging when they would go up by one, but Keator with that second goal really got us going in the third period," Smith said. "There was a lot of physical play, which is awesome. But, yeah, it was a great game."
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St. Joseph 3, New Canaan 2 (OT)
NEW CANAAN 1 0 1 0 -- 2
ST. JOSEPH 1 0 1 1-- 3
Goals: NC -- Henry Stanton 2; SJ -- Sean Smith, Filippo Petrini, Christian Keator. Assists: NC -- Puck Richardson 2, Luke Amero; SJ -- Ryan Corcoran 2, Dom Sidorczuk. Goalies: NC -- Chris Koennecke (31 saves); SJ -- Marc VanEtten (34). Shots: NC -- 36; SJ -- 34.
Records: New Canaan (13-7-2); St. Joseph (17-4-1).