Coming off one of the best seasons in program history, the Ridgefield High boys hockey team will have a different dynamic this winter.
“We don’t have the kind of top-end players that we had last season,” said head coach Shaun Gallagher. “The nice thing about this year’s team is that everyone is a player. We don’t have much of a drop-off.”
The Tigers finished with a 21-3 record in 2011-12, winning the FCIAC Tier I championship before falling to West Haven in the Division I state quarterfinals.
“It was a magical season,” said Gallagher, “but now we have to move on.”
Unfortunately for the Tigers, many of their marquee players from last year already have. Among the graduation losses were All-State and All-FCIAC forward Sean Wilkinson (30 goals, 38 assists, team-high 68 points) and second-team All-FCIAC goalie Nate Gliedman, along with top-line forward Timmy Kelly and steady defenseman Brendan Bossidy.
Moreover, Ridgefield must do without All-State defenseman Danny McMullan (now playing for the Norwalk-based Connecticut Oilers in the East Coast Hockey League) and forward Jack Christensen, arguably the team’s most dangerous forward after Wilkinson.
“There are some holes to fill, no doubt about it,” said Gallagher. “Now is the chance for other guys to step up.”
Ridgefield does have six returning forwards who should be able to generate consistent production. The group consists of seniors Vin Rella and Chris Morrow, juniors Jack Tregurtha, Callan McCormick and Cam McGuire, and sophomore Liam Smith.
“I can mix and match the top six in 30 different ways,” said Gallagher. “They are all talented players.”
Junior Christian O’Connell, sophomore Alex Rowella and freshman Adam Karashik join the forward ranks, while junior Sam Sarath and sophomores Paul Garlick and Brendan Winne are also vying for playing time.
Ridgefield looks to be set on defense with senior Ian Ball and juniors Jamie Kelly and Henry Gough returning. Those three were among the team’s top-five blueliners last season.
Junior Andy DeLalla, who played some shifts in the post-season, and senior Geoff Schneider round out the primary group of defensemen, while juniors Kyle Wolfarth and Patrick Gibson and sophomore Shane Luery are also in the mix.
“Defense should be a strength of ours,” said Gallagher. “It is a good unit.”
In goal, senior Dusty Rausa takes over for Gliedman. Rausa, who stared several games last year, has impressed Gallagher during the pre-season.
“He looks great,” said Gallagher about Rausa. “He has improved a lot since last year and is definitely our number-one goalie.”
Notes: Ridgefield opens the season Wednesday night (Dec. 12) at 6 against perennial state power Fairfield Prep at the Wonderland of Ice in Bridgeport. The Tigers’ first six games are all against Division I teams, and all but one of those contests is on the road.
Sophomores Patrick Sheehan-Delany and Alec Schneider are the back-up goalies to Rausa.
Last season’s FCIAC title was the fourth in program history and the first since 2007.