Hats off to Christian Keator

Christian Keator is rapidly becoming the go-to guy for the St. Joseph High hockey team.

In the short, but already-storied history of Cadet hockey, coach Marty Crouse has had goal scorers.

First there was his son, Conor, who was followed by Pat Corcoran and John Ferguson.

Now Keator, a senior captain from Milford, has stepped into the role.

Keator had his second straight hat trick and led the way as the Cadets defeated Notre Dame of Fairfield, 6-2, in the opening game of the second annual New Year’s Eve High School Hockey Face-off Monday afternoon at the Bridgeport’s Webster Bank Arena.

His first three-goal game in the stretch came in a 5-4 win over Cheshire Thursday in the West Haven Christmas Tournament.

Two of Keator’s trio of goals came in the crucial final period against ND, where, after going in ahead 4-0, the Cadets suddenly found themselves in a 4-2 game.

Keator scored at 5:11 of the third, stuffing a loose puck through the pads of goalie Scott Kline before converting on a breakaway after taking a pass from Troy Deering. That goal came at 11:07.

“When they (Notre Dame) scored those two goals early in the third period (at 1:07 and 1:34), we knew we needed to counter,” Keator said.

“We needed to get right back in it. Playing here (at Webster Bank Arena) is awesome. And this win is a confidence builder. It will boost our morale.”

St. Joseph (2-2) opened up a 2-0 lead on first-period goals from Chris Kirven (the first of his career) and Bryan Canforatta from Stratford.

Kirvin scored from the slot at 7:56 after taking a behind-the-net pass from Filippo Petrini.

Canforatta made it 2-0 when he scooped up a loose puck after a lapse by the Lancer defense and scored at 8:39.

Sean Smith and Zach Usinger assisted on the goal.

“We needed that kind of start,” Marty Crouse said. “Sometimes we have a great couple of shifts and have nothing to show for it.

“We’ve only had one other game this year in which we scored five goals (against Cheshire). As a team, we know that we need to put the puck in the net more.”

St Joseph doubled the Lancers shot effort (10-5) in the second period and got a career-first goal from Colin Powell and the first of three goals from Keator to take a 4-0 lead.

Powell scored off of a rebound at 6:18 and Keator also netted his goal off of a goalie deflection. His goal came at 14:40.

Both occurred while the Cadets were skating with a one-player advantage.

Notre Dame (1-3) put together its mini-rally early in the third period. Craig Hessenius scored at 1:07 and Jake Novak from Seymour re-directed a Matt Heim of Fairfield shot from the point at 1:34.

“You can’t wait until that late in the game to try and make a comeback,” Lancer coach Steve Hetherman said. “It’s too much to overcome. You find yourself expending so much energy and we didn’t have any left after that.

“What we needed was an early-game effort and it wasn’t there. I think we simply got psyched out by this arena. Instead of playing basic, fundamental hockey, we tried to improvise. It didn’t work.”

St. Joseph finished with 29 shots, while ND had 26.

Kline made 23 saves for the Lancers with Marc Van Etten turning aside 24 for the Cadets.

Crouse was concerned about ND’s flourish in the third period.

“You can never take anything for granted in this game,” he said. “They came at us and threw everything at the net. Luckily, we came back. We’re improving and hopefully, this will snowball.

“It’s always nice playing in a big, professional place like this. It’s great for our kids.”

Keator had scored three goals in the third period, including the game-winner at 14:19, to lift St. Joseph to its 5-4 victory over Cheshire.

Smith got the assist, as the Cadets outscored the Rams by a 3-2 margin in the wild final frame.

Andrew Gore, from Powell, tied the game at 1 in the first and Ryan Corcoran’s unassisted tally gave St. Joseph a 2-1 lead before Cheshire tied things at the break.

Keator took a pair of passes from Gore to score at 8:15 and 9:56, before the Rams answered at 10:44 and 13:59.

Twenty seconds later, Keator scored his decisive goal.