Welsh scores hat trick in win over Westhill-Stamford

Ridgefield goalie Matt Silliman (shown stopping a shot in Saturday's game against La Salle Academy) made 31 saves as the Tigers beat Westhill-Stamford, 6-1, on Wednesday night.

Ridgefield goalie Matt Silliman (shown stopping a shot in Saturday’s game against La Salle Academy) made 31 saves as the Tigers beat Westhill-Stamford, 6-1, on Wednesday night.

Gretchen McMahon / For Hearst Connecticut Media

It’s all about maintaining a standard.

Every season the target gets larger on the collective backs of the Ridgefield boys hockey team.

And each year the Tigers show why they’ve won the last three FCIAC championships, in addition to a Division I state title in 2017.

Ridgefield improved to 3-0 in the conference and 4-3 overall late Wednesday night thanks to a 6-2 road triumph over the Westhill-Stamford co-op team at Terry Conners Rink.

The Tigers scored with seven seconds left in the first period and 1:08 remaining in the second period and ended the evening with three power-play goals.

“We had no problem skating with Ridgefield. But their three power-play goals hurt,” said Westhill-Stamford co-coach John Santagata. “We’ve got to be more disciplined. They showed why they are an elite Division I team. They capitalized on all our mistakes.”

This 2019-20 Ridgefield squad has just six seniors on the roster. But that core has shown the youngsters and the newcomers exactly what is expected when they pull on the orange sweater.

Westhill-Stamford (6-1-1) was impressive in the opening period, only to have Ridgefield’s Kees van Wees put home a rebound with 7.7 seconds left to forge a 1-1 tie.

Late in the second period, Luke Welsh scored the first of his three goals on a power play to give the Tigers a 3-2 edge.

Welsh (two) and van Wees added third-period goals as Ridgefield’s physicality wore down a game Westhill-Stamford group.

“We do have a lot of new guys. But the entire group is coming along nicely,” said Ridgefield coach Shaun Gallagher. “Our veterans are pulling more weight than usual. Our entire group has performed better than expected.”

Ridgefield’s three losses have come against perennial powers Fairfield Prep, Xavier, and La Salle Academy (Providence, R.I.).

“The games against Prep and Xavier were close. It was a bounce here or a bounce of the puck there. La Salle is always one of the best teams in New England,” Gallagher said. “We gained a lot of quality lessons against quality teams.”

Another key for the Tigers has been the play of junior goalie Matt Silliman. He registered 31 saves Wednesday night against Westhill-Stamford, including 16 in the third period. Silliman got stronger as the contest went on.

“We’ve been fortunate in net with Silliman’s performance level,” Gallagher said. “He faced a host of quality chances. He made a lot of big saves.”

As the Tigers head into the meat of their FCIAC schedule, the future looks bright.

“Our program has focused on building a day-by-day mentality,” Gallagher said. “The kids do the work. They love the game of hockey. There is never a day at practice where I’m concerned about their effort or committment level.”

Notes: Welsh finished with three goals and two assists and van Wees had two goals and two assists. Linemate Will Stewart also scored a goal and added two assists.

Defenseman Kevin McNicholas contributed two assists for the Tigers.