The offensive wizardry of the top-ranked boys hockey team in the state is well-documented — the experienced top line that can dominate a game, the depth scoring.
That was all on display Saturday at Astorino Arena, with six different goal scorers pacing visiting Ridgefield to a 6-1 win over sixth-ranked Hamden. But the Tigers’ defensive effort stood out as well, with numerous blocked shots and forced turnovers.
“They’re the best team we saw, talent-wise; the whole deal, from the net on out, and the goalie (Sean Gordon) wasn’t even tested today,” Hamden coach Todd Hall said.
“They do a great job getting in lanes, blocking shots and then transitioning off those turnovers,” Hall continued. “Sometimes, not every time, but sometimes the puck ends up in the back of the net and kills any momentum we may have had.”
Ridgefield (6-0) has played five teams that were in the top 10 when they met. The Tigers have won each game by at least three goals. They outshot the Green Dragons, 28-17.
Hamden (5-4) was coming off an 8-3 win over second-ranked Greenwich on Wednesday.
“We were expecting a tough, physical game, as you saw, a lot of big hits,” Ridgefield sophomore Will Stewart said. “It was important to stay disciplined.”
Hamden scored its only goal on the power play, in the second period. The Tigers got a couple of power-play goals, one by Matt Walker to open the scoring a couple of shifts before Stewart set up Luke Welsh to make it 2-0 after one period.
Logan Chang and Patrick Rigby broke up a Hamden rush early in the second period, and Will Forrest’s lead pass sent Nick Cullinan up the left wing. With Walker driving to the net, Cullinan scored to make it 3-0. And even after Eddy Fracasso’s power-play goal got Hamden on the board, the Tigers blocked shots and limited chances.
“We knew they were going to be excited for this game, just as much as we were. Coming off a win against Greenwich like that, they definitely had momentum,” Ridgefield coach Shaun Gallagher said.
Forrest’s power-play goal, with Cullinan returning the favor on the feed, and Tyler Gordon’s short-handed goal gave the Tigers a 5-1 lead after two. Owen Luft stepped in front of a pass to give himself an open look late in the game, finishing off the scoring.
Forrest finished with three points for Ridgefield.
“We had a couple of other guys besides the [top] six that generated some nice chances, too,” Gallagher said. “It’s nice to share the love on the scoresheet, for guys to get rewarded for all their hard work in practices, and digging at the net and being in the right spots.”
Notes: Stewart set up a goal and made a couple of good defensive plays, including some blocked shots. “Week to week, he’s our most-improved player,” Gallagher said. “He’s a hard-working kid, and he’s very eager to do the right things out there.”
Ridgefield lost defenseman Kevin McNicholas late in the second period, when he went hard into the end boards with Hamden’s Conor Gethings. Gallagher expects McNicholas will be OK — “he’s tough,” the coach said — though the defenseman had a few facial cuts.
Hamden played without forward Craig Cesare, who sustained a stinger on a hit in the Greenwich game.
RIDGEFIELD 6, HAMDEN 1
RIDGEFIELD 2 3 1—6
HAMDEN 0 1 0—1
Records: Ridgefield 6-0; Hamden 5-4. Goals:R—Matt Walker, Luke Welsh, Nick Cullinan, Will Forrest, Tyler Gordon, Owen Luft; H—Eddy Fracasso. Assists: R—Forrest 2, Will Stewart, Simon van Wees, Cullinan, Kees van Wees; H—Michael Gethings, A.J. Luedee. Goalies: R—Sean Gordon (16 saves); H—Donald Moorcroft (22). Shots: R—28; H—17.