Ridgefield is already a tough team to defend at even strength, but when it’s on a power play, watch out.
The unbeaten Tigers put on a power-play execution clinic during Saturday’s FCIAC boys hockey championship game against Greenwich and in the process kept their streaks of superiority alive.
Scoring five power-play goals, top-seed Ridgefield won the conference title for the third straight season, posting a decisive 8-1 victory over sixth-seed Greenwich in a physical, hard-hitting, penalty-filled game at Dorothy Hamill Skating Rink in Greenwich.
Besides earning a sweet three-peat, the Tigers, who are ranked No. 1 in the GameTimeCT state poll, continued their perfect season, raising their record to 22-0.
“Just daily work; there’s no trick to it,” Ridgefield coach Shaun Gallagher said of his squad’s success. “These guys like working hard and they deserve the title for sure. They worked for it.”
Junior forward Kees van Wees scored a team-high four goals for the Tigers and added three assists. Senior forward Will Forrest, who was named the game’s MVP, contributed three goals and an assist for Ridgefield, which won the FCIAC title for the eighth time in program history.
“We’ve been here before; we were here last year (a 6-4 victory over Greenwich) and winning it again means a lot, because the FCIAC is such a competitive division,” said Forrest, who scored two goals in the 2018 championship game. “To win it three times is special.”
Greenwich (11-10-2), which defeated third-seed New Canaan and second-seed Darien on its way to reaching the finals, received a goal from senior forward Matt Davey. The Cardinals, who had dropped a 5-2 regular-season decision to the Tigers, trailed 3-0 after the opening period and 7-1 after the second.
“We didn’t even really have a chance to get momentum going,” GHS coach Chris Rurak said. “Penalty after penalty after penalty; it was going both ways. It’s going to be hard for any team in the state to match power plays with them. Hats off to them; they capitalized on their chances.”
On a 5-on-3 power play, after Greenwich was charged with roughing and interference penalties, the Tigers scored the game’s first goal with 12:52 remaining in the opening period.
Receiving a pass from van Wees at the right post, Forrest got the puck past GHS freshman goalie Charlie Zolin, giving Ridgefield a 1-0 lead.
Still on a power play, Ridgefield gained a 2-0 edge on van Wees’ wraparound goal at the 11:33 mark. The Tigers benefited from another power-play opportunity later in the first period, as Forrest went top shelf with a snap shot from the left face-off circle, putting Ridgefield ahead, 3-0, with 4:13 still left in the first period.
“We work on our power play during every practice,” van Wees said. “We just continue to work on it, and when we get those opportunities it (the practice) helps us.”
Said Forrest: “Getting goals and offensive production in a championship game early is important. We wanted to come out fast and we got them on their heels early.”
The teams combined for 28 penalties, and Greenwich cashed in on one of its power plays for its lone goal of the contest. With the Cardinals on a two-man advantage, Davey gathered the puck on a shot from senior Nic Pellettier-Martinelli that had bounded off the boards and knocked it past Ridgefield senior goalie Sean Gordon at the 10:16 mark of the second period.
Any momentum Greenwich gained was lost when Ridgefield scored three goals over a 2:53 span. Following a five-minute major penalty on Greenwich, Forrest converted a one-timer with 7:09 to go in the second period. Senior forward Nick Cullinan then snapped a shot home from the right wing at the 5:28 mark, making it 5-1. Van Wees followed with two goals, giving the Tigers a commanding 7-1 lead through two periods.
“Our power play is great; everyone does what they need to do and no one is selfish with the puck,” Forrest said. “If we can get pucks deep, move it around, draw penalties. and put [our] power play to work, that’s how we are going to be successful.”
Added Rurak: “When we get into penalty trouble, it’s not our strong suit. Five-on-five is where we need to be.”
Supported by the strong play of his defensemen, including seniors Simon van Wees and Brady McSpedon, Gordon made 14 saves in goal.
“All season, our defense has just been fantastic,” Gordon said. “They limit the good, quality shots toward me by so much. Today, I feel it wasn’t until the third period until I saw several quality shots; they break up so many shots.”
Zolin made 15 saves for Greenwich, before giving way to junior Ben Nash, who stopped five shots.
RIDGEFIELD 8, GREENWICH 1
GREENWICH 0 1 0 — 1
RIDGEFIELD 3 4 1 — 8
Scoring: First period — R: Will Forrest (Kees van Wees, Matt Walker) 12:52; Kees van Wees (Walker, Forrest) 11:33; Forrest (Nick Cullinan). Second period — R: Forrest (Kees van Wees) 7:09; Cullinan (Kees van Wees, Daniel Parson) 5:28; Kees van Wees (Walker) 4:16; Kees van Wees (Simon van Wees, Cullinan) 1:51; G — Matt Davey (Nick Columbo, Nic Pelletier-Martinelli) 10:16. Third period — R: Kees van Wees (Owen Luft, Logan Chang) 8:35; Goalies: R — Sean Gordon (14 saves); G — Charlie Zolin (15 saves), Ben Nash (5 saves).