Jackson Kelly’s short-handed goal with 11:53 left in the third period broke a 3-3 tie and held up the rest of the way as the Wilton High boys hockey team defeated Trinity Catholic, 4-3, on Wednesday night in the regular-season finale.
The Warriors (4-16) clinched a berth in the Division III state playoffs with the win. Wilton, which as of Monday was on the outside looking in for the 16-team playoff field, ended up 14th in the points standings.
The first round of the state playoffs are scheduled for Monday. The brackets will be released on Friday.
Wednesday’s game, played at the Winter Garden in Ridgefield, was Senior Night for the Warriors, who honored their three seniors — Jack DiNanno, Luke Terradista and John Fung — and their families.
The Crusaders (1-17), despite having only eight skaters, took a 3-2 lead into the third period behind the play of goaltender Lance Lippmann, who had 42 saves over the first two periods.
But Dean DiNanno scored just 13 seconds into the third period on a hard wrist shot from the left circle to tie the game.
Three minutes later, with Wilton playing a man down, Kelly took the puck at the Wilton blue line and went the other way on a breakaway to score what proved to be the game winner.
Down the stretch Wilton goalie Logan Motyka came up with some big stops to preserve the lead, including a save on a breakaway by Jack Kinahan with under five minutes left.
Trinity pressured right to the end, and just missed tying the game with 40 seconds left when a pass to the right of the goal was just out of reach of Andrew Ellis, who would have had an open net.
Scoring goals for Wilton were Kelly, Dean DiDanno, Jack DiNanno and Fung. Jack DiNanno also had three assists, with other assists by Lucas Thelen and Kelly.
Kinahan led the Crusaders with two goals. Mark Yu also scored.
Lippmann finished the game with 53 saves, while Motyka had 21 saves.
Wilton came out and pressured throughout the first period, with an 11-1 edge in shots on goal through the first 10 minutes. But it was Trinity that scored first, with 5:08 left, when Yu intercepted a clearing attempt and got off a wrist shot that appeared to deflect in off a Wilton player’s skate.
The Warriors tied things up with a shorthanded goal with 2:36 left in the period, as Thelen won a puck along the boards and found Fung charging to the goal for the bang-bang goal.
Lippmann made 19 saves in the first period, the best coming early on when he denied Tyler Everett after a rush from center ice, and then dove to rob Brandon Jonsson on the rebound attempt.
Wilton, which had to kill off six penalties in the game, surrendered a power-play goal with 8:28 left in the second period when Kinahan knocked in a loose puck near the left post, making it 2-1.
Wilton tied it at 2-2 two minutes later with Jack DiNanno scoring the goal on a shot from the left point.
Lippmann came up huge late in the period, with 16 saves over the final six minutes. Connor Drake, Terradista, Everett, Dean DiNanno, Tommy McHugh and Kelly all had at least one good scoring opportunity turned away.
It was the Crusaders who got the next goal, however, as Kinahan knocked in a rebound with 3:08 left to make it 3-2.
Lippmann made one last stop to preserve the 4-3 lead, with a save on Dean DiNanno right in front, after Fung’s face-off win, with five seconds left in the second period.
Wilton 4, Trinity Catholic 3
Trinity – Mark Yu (unassisted) 5:08
Wilton – John Fung (Lucas Thelen) 2:36
Trinity – Jack Kinahan (unassisted) 8:28
Wilton – Jack DiNanno (Jackson Kelly) 6:28
Trinity – Jack Kinahan (Jay Bacco) 3:06
Wilton – Dean DiNanno (Jack DiNanno) 14:47
Wilton – Jackson Kelly (unassisted) 11:53
Shots on goal – Wilton 57, Trinity 24
Saves – Lance Lippman (TC) 53; Logan Motyka (W) 21