Ranked first in state, Ridgefield now 9-1 at midpoint
Considering the way his team has been playing, Ridgefield High boys hockey coach Shaun Gallagher was unexpectedly disappointed when he heard that Monday’s game against New Canaan had been postponed due to inclement weather.
At this point, the Tigers might prefer to play every day.
Following a 3-0 non-conference triumph over host West Haven on Saturday, Ridgefield reached the halfway mark of the regular season with a 9-1 record, an eight-game winning streak, and the top spot in several state polls.
“There are always things to work on, but we are playing well right now,” said Gallagher. “The key is to keep getting better; you don’t want to peak early and become comfortable because a lot of other good teams are going to improve.”
Against West Haven, the Tigers scored all three of their goals in the first period. The 3-0 lead remained intact until West Haven got two late goals on power plays — the second with half of a second to play.
“The final score made it look as though the game was closer than it was,” said Gallagher. “We dominated the first two periods and the first 12 or 13 minutes of the last period. At the end of the game we were in the penalty box more often than we like to be.”
After having a goal waved off just 1:20 into the game, Ridgefield broke through the chaos in front of the Devils net to take a 1-0 lead with 11:24 left in the first period. Jeff Pracella got the goal on assists from Matteo van Wees and Jonas Chang.
“Matteo van Wees separated a man from the puck and made a great pass to Jeff for the goal,” said Gallagher.
Just one minute and six seconds later, Will Forrest took a feed from linemate Nick Cullinan and blasted in a shot from the right side to boost Ridgefield’s lead to 2-0.
Cullinan made it 3-0 when he scored from in front of the West Haven net with 1:45 remaining in the first period. Jack Stafford and Jack McGeary earned assists on Cullinan’s goal.
Coincidental minor penalties early in the second period were followed just seconds later by an elbowing call against the Tigers. Ridgefield kept up its pressure, though, and goalie Sean Keegans (29 saves) stopped some long-range shots from West Haven.
With a three-goal lead entering the final minute of the third period, the Tigers looked to have the victory secured. But after West Haven pulled its goalie for an extra skater, Ridgefield was called for a cross check with 38.4 seconds left. Five seconds later, West Haven scored to creep within 3-1.
Then, with five seconds to play, Ridgefield was called for another cross check. Just one-half of a second remained when West Haven got its second goal to end the scoring.
“It got a little crazy there at the end,” said Gallagher. “But overall we possessed the puck and kept it in their end for long stretches. I thought we did a good job, especially with our five-on-five play.”
Notes: The game against New Canaan has been rescheduled for Tuesday, Feb. 7, at 7:10 at the Darien rink.
HAN Network Editorial Director John Kovach contributed reporting to this story.