Two games in two days will take its toll on the best boys hockey teams. Even the top-ranked Ridgefield Tigers aren’t immune, but they again found a way to win.
It also helps when you have a spectacular goalie.
With senior Sean Gordon racking up 36 saves, Ridgefield overcame seven penalties and defeated the Darien Blue Wave, 2-0, Saturday at the Darien Ice House.
It was Ridgefield’s second win over Darien in as many days, as the two FCIAC rivals played a home-and-home doubleheader. The Tigers won 3-2 in overtime on Friday at the Winter Garden Arena in Ridgefield.
The speed was a bit slower on Saturday, but the game was equally competitive.
“Today, it was grinding it out,” Gordon said. “We had to battle back, especially with all the penalties in the first period. We had a lot of good mental toughness today.”
The Tigers’ goals were scored by Will Forrest — who had the game-winner in OT on Friday — and Nick Cullinan, but Darien held a 36-19 advantage in shots.
Ridgefield (9-0) was its own worst enemy in the first period, committing three penalties as the Wave dominated the flow. Darien (4-4) had an 11-3 advantage in shots on goal, but Gordon cleaned it all up with 11 saves.
Play was more balanced in the second period, although Darien again led in shots, 18-11.
Around the five-minute mark, both goalies came up huge.
Forrest got in front of a couple of Darien players in the neutral zone and sliced into the zone, but his pass across the front of the net was just out of reach of Cullinan.
Darien had a rush the other way, with Matt Daileader taking the first shot from the slot. Gordon blocked that and the puck came out to John Reid, but his return attempt was also deflected by Gordon.
The Tigers returned the favor with pressure on the Wave defense, but Wave goalie Henri Pfeifle (17 saves) ended that when he gloved a shot from the point.
Ridgefield finally broke the scoring ice with 1:31 remaining in the second period when Forrest fired one in from just inside the blue line. The puck rang in off the pipe with an assist from Dan Parson.
An unsportsmanlike-conduct penalty on Parson after the goal gave the Wave its sixth power play, but Gordon was a whirlwind, as he made three great saves during the ensuing penalty kill.
“I wasn’t thinking about anything, just the puck,” Gordon said. “I just wanted to keep the puck out of the net. There was one lucky one where I was diving and that was pure reaction. I was doing my best to keep any negative things out of my head.”
“He’s our best player for sure,” Ridgefield coach Shaun Gallagher said about Gordon. “Having to kill 14 minutes of penalties, so a full period of penalties, you’re going to need your goalie to step up and he did that.”
Ridgefield doubled its lead to 2-0 when Cullinan took a pass from Kees van Wees on the backdoor and buried it during a power play with 10:14 remaining.
“They’re undefeated, they’re No. 1 in the state and it’s easy to see why,” Darien coach Mac Budd said about the Tigers. “They battle hard. We played them tough and they’re a very, very good team; there’s little doubt about that. But make no mistake, we have to figure out a way to beat them. I have a strong suspicion that if you’re going to win the FCIAC or the states, you’re going to have to beat that Ridgefield team at some point.”
Tigers triumph in OT
Sweet passes, sprawling saves, big hits … the first game of the home-and-home series between Ridgefield and Darien on Friday had something of everything.
Even a game-winning goal in overtime.
Will Forrest scored just 25 seconds into the eight-minute extra session to give Ridgefield a 3-2 victory at the Winter Garden Ice Arena. Forrest collected a loose puck in the slot and beat Darien goalie Henri Pfeifle with a backhand into the top of the net.
“All the credit to my linemates,” Forrest said, referring to fellow seniors Nick Cullinan and Matt Walker. “They forced a turnover and I was able to capitalize.”
“It was a helluva high school game,” Darien coach Mac Budd said afterwards. “The level of play was very, very high. For our guys, that’s as well as we’ve played. I thought we did a good job in a lot of different areas and so did they.”
“That was a great high school hockey game,” Ridgefield coach Shaun Gallagher said. “A lot of credit to Darien … they played well. It could have gone either way.”
The Tigers controlled the scoreless opening period but were unable to beat Pfeifle, who had 15 of his 33 saves in the first 15 minutes. Pfeifle made pad saves on shots from Cullinan and Simon van Wees during one Ridgefield power play and then denied Cullinan with a glove save on the Tigers’ second man-advantage.
Darien took a 1-0 lead with 8:25 left in the second period by scoring on a 5-on-3 power play. Defenseman James Gregory blasted a shot from the point that teammate Patrick Conway deflected past Ridgefield goalie Sean Gordon (19 saves).
Ridgefield then tied the game during its own 5-on-3 advantage later in the period. Cullinan took a pass from Kees van Wees to the right of the Darien goal and blasted in a one-timer with 2:02 remaining.
Cullinan added his second goal just 22 seconds into the third period, rocketing a slap shot past Pfeifle for a 2-1 Ridgefield lead.
Darien got the equalizer with 7:35 left in regulation, as Bennett McDermott scored from in front off a nice pass from Blake Swiggett behind the net.
The game’s tastiest passing sequence nearly put Ridgefield back in front with 2:45 to go in the third period. Off a transition rush, Walker made a drop pass to Cullinan, who quickly fed Simon van Wees cutting into the slot. Van Wees then uncorked a high shot that Pfeifle was able to reject, keeping the score tied. Pfeifle also did well to deny Walker with 47.1 seconds left, sending the game to overtime.