Head coach Dan Feighan knew when he woke up Monday morning that his Norwalk-McMahon Co-Op boys ice hockey team would put up a fight. He knew exactly what the score would be, too: 4-3. He told his players this before their Monday evening game against Fairfield Co-Op, and they laughed.
Two hours later, Norwalk got as close to an FCIAC win as it had in more than two years. It lost 4-3: The right score, but the wrong result. Despite another loss, his players are starting to believe in Feighan's optimism.
"I'll be honest, I wouldn't have predicted any one-goal games a couple years ago against an FCIAC team," Feighan said. "I was really hoping it would be us with the W, but I knew it was going to be a really tight game."
Norwalk surprised everyone when Nick LeBlanc scored 13 seconds into the game, giving his team a reason to be optimistic. Fairfield knotted the score at one late in the first. Mike McRoy then took the lead back for Norwalk on a backhander into the right side of the net seven minutes into the second.
Fairfield struck back with two goals in the final 1:36 of the second period. In previous seasons, the score might have gotten out of control for Norwalk after that. The team regrouped during the break, though, and Nick Hurlbut responded to tie the game at 3 with 11:17 to play.
With only two lines playing regularly, Norwalk began to tire. A bad attempt to clear the puck out of the zone was scooped up by Fairfield's Chris Sturm, who sent a whistling slapshot down the middle for the backbreaking goal.
But even in defeat, Feighan and his players were very upbeat about the future. "It's not as disappointing as some of our losses in the past. We're getting so much better, and I'm really proud of these guys," Feighan said. "Our first line will all be seniors next year. I've seen it. I've been watching these guys grow and they're achieving it bit by bit."
Norwalk-McMahon has an outside shot at the state tournament at 4-10 on the year. It hosts Stamford on Saturday with seven games to play.
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