DARIEN — Connecticut hockey’s opening night went just about as well as New Canaan could have hoped.

The Rams, who come into the season with championship aspirations, got big plays from offense, defense and special teams en route to a 4-2 win over perennial-powerhouse Notre Dame of West Haven at Darien Ice House Saturday.

Tyler Hill got the scoring started for the Rams early in the first with a snipe from the slot, but New Canaan quickly found itself with its back against the wall in the form of a 5-on-3 power play for the Green Knights.

The Rams killed off all 1:40 of the two-man deficit, effectively turning momentum to their side.

“That’s when it turned a little bit,” NDWH coach Tim Belcher said. “We were still able to score after that, but you get a 5-on-3, usually they aren’t as long as ours was, you have to get more shots and you have to capitalize on that. You can’t squander that opportunity, and after that we didn’t have another power play the rest of the way.”

ND-West Haven bookended the first intermission with its two goals — both off the stick of Matthew Ciaburro.

With 4:07 remaining in the first Gregory Caturano hit Ciaburro with a pretty cross in front of the net where he would bury the equalizer to tie the game at 1-1 at the first intermission.

Three minutes into the second it was the same story for Ciaburro, this time with Vincent Paolillo providing the perfect feed and a 2-1 lead.

It wouldn’t take the Rams long to respond, as less than a minute later Drew Morris banked in a slap-shot off a Notre Dame defender to tie the game.

New Canaan coach Pat Gore said responding to early adversity was the key for his experienced squad.

“Were a veteran team, that’s the key compared to years prior,” Gore said. “We were young and got shot in the foot and didn’t know what to do. This year we know you go out there and win the next shift and you’re fine; any game like that those momentum shifts are huge, I thought that was a real key in the first night.”

With 1:30 left in the second period New Canaan got its third power-play opportunity and made it count as George McMahon attacked the net, eventually corralling his own rebound and lifting a backhand into the roof of the net.

Hill rounded out the scoring for New Canaan, converting in the third period on a 2-on-1 opportunity when Harry Gelnaw rifled a shot off Notre Dame goalie Liam Mooney and onto the stick of Hill for his second goal of the contest.

Despite hard-nosed play at both ends the Green Knights were unable to find score late in the contest.

“It was an up-and-down, fast paced game,” Belcher said. “In the third period we didn’t get as many opportunities as we would have liked but I think these are two of the teams that should be there in March.”

The Rams next step in that chase comes Wednesday against another storied program in Hamden — a 7-2 winner over Darien Saturday — and Gore thinks getting the early victory will provide a boost before another early test.

“At the end of the day we got the victory,” Gore said. “Whether it’s pretty or ugly you just want to get the win. To get the first one out of the way compared to last year (an 0-4 start for the Rams), where we were chasing the early part of the year, will build some confidence and get us ready to work hard for our next game.”

aparelli@bcnnew.com @reportedbytheAP



NEW CANAAN 1 2 1—4

Records: Notre Dame-West Haven 0-1; New Canaan 1-0.

Goals: NDWH—Matthew Ciaburro 2; NC—Tyler Hill 2, Drew Morris, George McMahon. Assists: NDWH—Gregory Caturano, Vincent Paolillo; NC—Harry Gelnaw. Goalies: NDWH—Liam Connell (12 saves); NC—Peter Windas (11). Shots: NDWH 13; NC—16.