Newfound success usually brings raised expectations -- both internally and externally.
The New Fairfield-Immaculate boys ice hockey team is coming off a 10-10 season that ended in the Division III quarterfinals. The Rebels are one of the favorites to claim a trip to Yale's Ingalls Rink -- a place not reached by either school since Immaculate in 2007 -- for a spot in the final this term.
So when the Rebels topped host Staples-Weston-Shelton 7-4 at the Milford Ice Pavilion Monday night to improve to 2-1 on the season, co-coaches Larry Vieira and Tom Fabiani were left with mixed emotions.
"It was very choppy," Vieira said of his team's performance. "We don't want to be negative, we are always happy with a win but it was very choppy tonight. We didn't move the puck and we didn't have any flow."
Parker Evans netted a hat trick for NFI, which generated plenty of chances at the Wreckers cage despite shaky moments in defense.
"It's definitely an early-season thing," Fabiani said. "The team isn't coming together like we'd want to. We have the potential to do so it just isn't happening as quickly as we would want."
The tide turned in the Rebels' favor for good midway through the first period. After Evans' first goal was pegged back by a 2-on-1 breakaway goal from Staples' Derek Nussbaum, NFI struck twice in eight seconds to grab a 3-1 lead.
"I think (the two goals) gave us some momentum," Fabiani said. "It definitely helped us establish that in the first period."
The Rebels parlayed that momentum into another three-goal period in the second and played with the lead the rest of the way.
Evans completed his hat trick on the power play with 2:10 left in the second period to give NFI a 6-2 lead.
"Parker Evans was a nonstop jitterbug," Vieira said. "Our red line was outstanding; the red line moved the puck like we're accustomed to."
"You have to lose in order to win," Sharinn said. "We'll work on our systems. We felt the kids were not very disciplined compared to what they have been hopefully that will make a difference."
The Wreckers, who only fielded nine skaters and two goalies, attempted to jump back into the game in the third period. Mendillo scored 1:29 into the period and Staples piled on the pressure in the opening stages looking to draw closer. Rebels goalie Ryan Dobos made several crucial saves before Staples took a penalty that took away most of the momentum.
"You can't blame it on the refs," Sharinn said of Staples taking seven minor penalties Monday. "It's on us; we have to play better hockey."