April 21, 2012

Fairfield Notches Signature Win In Upset of Denver

Junior Sam Snow scores five, including game-tying goal and OT winner

by Ivey Speight | LaxMagazine.com

Fairfield senior goaltender Charlie Cipriano forced a turnover on a Denver man-up chance in the final minute of the fourth quarter to set up Sam Snow's game-tying goal with 19 seconds left in regulation. "I just knew we needed the ball back," Cipriano said. "There's been too many times this year where we've lost big game like that."
© Greg Raymond 

FAIRFIELD, Conn. -- The Fairfield Stags finally have a reason to believe.

Fairfield tied a program record for wins in a season and defeated a nationally-ranked team for the first time all year as it upset the No. 10 Denver Pioneers 9-8 in overtime on Saturday at Lessing Field.

"It's a gutsy performance," Fairfield head coach Andy Copelan said. "It didn't come easy there in the second half. We really had to dig deep and find a way to battle back at the end."

Fairfield (11-2, 4-1 ECAC) was led by junior attack Sam Snow, who tied a career-high with five goals, including the tying goal with 19 seconds left in regulation and the winner 1:32 into overtime. It was the second time this season he ended a game in OT.

"Sam is an absolutely remarkable young man," Copelan said. "He shows up everyday to practice, he's kind of what I expect and what I want this program to be about."

Denver (7-5, 3-3 ECAC) held the lead for most of the game, but could not stretch their advantage to more than three, with their largest advantage coming at 8-5 with 9:47 remaining in the fourth quarter on freshman Wes Berg's third goal.

"We played a hell of a game," Denver attack Mark Matthews said. "We played a great team in Fairfield this week. We can't lose that three-goal lead like we do. A couple of bounces go our way that's our game."

Fairfield came from behind on three separate occasions. The Pioneers held Fairfield scoreless for nearly 20 minutes until Sam Snow cut the lead to 8-6 with 7:39 left in regulation on a play following a Stags timeout.

"Give them credit," Denver head coach Bill Tierney said. "They call a timeout, they run the pick play and then Snow nails one."

That goal shifted the momentum as the nearly 1,000 fans in attendance regained their energy.

"I think you felt the whole place, the momentum kind of shifted there a little bit," Copelan said. "That first one was a nice weight off your chest."

Even with the momentum, the Pioneers still were in control. They were leading by one in a man-up situation with less than a minute to play, then Fairfield goalkeeper Charlie Cipriano caused a turnover to regain possession and Denver fouled Cipriano to be forced into a man-down situation.

"I just knew we needed the ball back," Cipriano said. "There's been too many times this year where we've lost big game like that. I just went out there and got the ball back."

The reigning ECAC goalkeeper of the year stopped a game high 12 shots.

The big difference of this game could have been the experience. The Pioneers defeated Fairfield last year in the ECAC championship last year, but it 2012 the Stags are arguably more battle-tested. They are now 4-0 in overtime games, while Denver has now lost three games in extra time.

"As I told the team, last year we're winning all those games," Tierney said. "When it got close we just had the confidence to step on people. It hasn't happened this year."

Fairfield has already clinched a spot in the ECAC tournament for the second straight year, and Saturday's win against Denver is certainly a signature victory for the program.

"It's absolutely monumental," Snow said. "We're without a doubt a program on the rise, we've got something to be proud of now. People have to watch out for Fairfield." 

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