Ridgefield goalie Henry Ertl goes from unheralded, even unknown, to key to Tigers' success

RIDGEFIELD — Henry Ertl last year earned his way to becoming Ridgefield boys hockey’s No. 1 goalie by the postseason, even though somehow the word “zero” seemed to associate with his name.

Ertl had been relatively unheralded to start that year. When the Tigers tied New Canaan on Jan. 8, 2022, he talked a bit about his respect for Rams goalie Beau Johnson, watching him for three years. 

Compounding that, Ertl's number was incorrect on the roster on the CIAC website — right up through the FCIAC final — leading media to inadvertently credit the wrong guy for the heroics until the correction eventually trickled to them.

Ertl and Justin Silliman were pushing each other through last season, and both were playing well by the end of the year, coach Shaun Gallagher said.

Then Ertl started putting up zeroes.

“Three starts in a row when it mattered, it was incredible,” Gallagher said. “All the credit goes to the group of players. They gave nothing but their best effort, which as a coach is great.”

In the new season, he’s Ridgefield’s only-one goalie. There are other newcomers to the position, but Ertl is the guy in more ways than one.

“I’ve been working on composure,” the senior said before practice this week. “I’m the only goalie, so I can never let anything rattle me.

“I’m still growing,” he said. “Me and our goalie coach, we’re working on playing within my body, how I’m moving.”

Ridgefield has won three in a row after a 1-6 start, moving back into the last spot in the GametimeCT Top 10 Poll. Gallagher said some of the younger players are figuring out their positioning and making better decisions.

The winning streak includes Ertl’s first shutout of the season, against Greenwich. In the way of running it to four on Saturday is No. 2 Darien. The last time they met, things were pretty interesting.

The Tigers entered the 2022 postseason under .500. Ertl had gone through back issues. All he did from there was rattle off three consecutive shutouts as Ridgefield beat Greenwich, topped Darien 1-0 and beat Fairfield in overtime to win the FCIAC championship.

Plenty of teamwork and some luck were involved, he said, remembering a teammate pulling a puck off his goal line.

“Moments like that where they’ve got your back, you’ve got their back,” Ertl said.

“It was crazy, the best experience for hockey I ever had, magical, going with all those guys, the seniors.”

Gallagher described Ertl as a competitor, one who wants to prove himself.

“He is direct. He’s blunt. He doesn’t mind speaking his mind. You know exactly how he feels,” Gallagher said. “A lot is directed at making somebody better, making the team better.

“He’s also done an unbelievable job balancing how to approach that, use when it’s necessary, pull back when it’s not.”

Ertl started playing hockey around second grade at the Winter Garden in a spring league, and he was a goalie from the start.

“My family says it’s because I was a really bad skater,” Ertl said. “I honestly wanted to throw the pads on.”

He worked his way up through travel hockey, on to the Ridgefield Lions and a couple of other stops before playing for the Tigers.

His next stop is to be determined, but he wants to play in college. A postgraduate year is possible, but he’d more likely play junior hockey with an eye toward possibly studying marketing or business with maybe a minor in psychology.

“I’m a Canadian citizen, so I might go up north,” Ertl said; his father is Canadian, met his mom on a train and moved to the States. “I’m undecided right now. I’ll see what happens, go with the flow.”

mfornabaio@ctpost.com; @fornabaioctp