SHELTON -- Already down two players because of suspensions, the worst thing that could have happened to the St. Joseph boys hockey team Wednesday was falling two goals down to New Canaan in the opening round of the Division 1 state tournament.
Or, perhaps that second New Canaan goal was the best thing that could have happened to the Cadets.
After New Canaan took a 2-0 lead late in the second period, the proverbial fire was apparently lit under the Cadets, who scored twice in the next 2½ minutes to tie the game.
Christian Keator then scored on a power play with 5:59 left in the game to give St. Joseph a 3-2 victory.
"After they made it 2-0, we definitely had a little extra hop in our step," Keator said after scoring his 28th goal of the season. "We couldn't finish earlier in the game but then we started crashing the net."
While Harry Stanton's second goal for New Canaan jumpstarted the Cadets, it seemed to have the opposite effect on the young Rams, who skate 10 sophomores.
"We couldn't put them away," New Canaan coach Bo Hickey said. "We're young. I don't know how we won 12 games. And when we got the two-goal lead I think psychologically we played a little softer."
The No. 6 Cadets (18-5-1) were playing without defenseman Sean Smith and forward Dom DeRosa, who were suspended one game after incurring game misconduct penalties in Saturday's 5-4 loss to Ridgefield in the FCIAC final.
"I was worried how we might react without those two," Cadet coach Marty Crouse said. "If we didn't bring our A game we'd be in trouble."
After New Canaan goalie Chris Koennecke stopped a slapper by Matt Greenhut, Keator knocked in the rebound to send the Cadets to their third win over the Rams this season and into Saturday's quarterfinals at No. 3 Darien (18-3-2).
"It's tough to beat any team three times in one season," Crouse said. "We didn't have the fire early but when New Canaan made it 2-0 I thought the tide would turn, and it did."
New Canaan (12-8-2) took a 1-0 lead when Stanton knocked in a rebound nine minutes into the game. Stanton's second goal made it 2-0 with 3:43 left in the middle period.
But St. Joseph sophomore Filippo Petrini scored 30 seconds later on a wrist shot that beat Koennecke (24 saves). And two minutes after that, Petrini scored on a wraparound to tie it.
"We were a little more cautious once we got the two-goal lead," said Hickey, who had never lost three times to one team in the same season. "We were a little too relaxed, too cute."
The Rams came out flying to start the third period but couldn't get anything past St. Joseph goalie Marc Van Etten (27 saves). And after the Rams were called for an incidental tripping penalty with 7:33 remaining in the third period, Keator took care of the rest.
NEW CANAAN 1 1 0--2
ST. JOSEPH 0 2 1--3
Records: New Canaan 12-8-2, St. Joseph 18-5-1
Goals: NC--Harry Stanton 2; SJ--Filippo Petrini 2, Christian Keator. Assists: NC--Peter Richardson; Luke Amero SJ--Dom Sidorczuk, Matt Greenhut, Ryan Corcoran 2. Goalie saves: NC--Chris Koennecke 24; SJ--Marc Van Etten 27.