Repeat denied: Prep tops Ridgefield in state semis
It was a game in which the shots were nearly even and both teams produced quality scoring chances.
The difference was that Fairfield Prep had Jack McGee.
The senior goalie made 27 saves — many of the spectacular variety — to lead top-seed Prep past fifth-seed Ridgefield, 4-1, in a boys hockey Division I state semifinal Wednesday night at Ingalls Rink in New Haven.
Ridgefield, which won its first-ever DI title last season, ended the season with a 20-5 record. Three of those losses came against Prep (21-2-1), which will now meet second-seed Greenwich in the state finals Saturday (2 p.m.) at Ingalls Rink.
The Tigers controlled large chunks of play against Prep but could get only one shot past McGee. That came on a power play early in the second period. Off a face-off in Prep's zone, Nick Cullinan drew the puck back to defenseman Liam Galloway. Galloway sent a short pass to Matt Walker, who faked a shot and skated around a Prep player before unleashing a low blast that beat McGee and tied the game at 1-1.
With the Tigers buzzing for the go-ahead goal, McGee then did some of his best work. After stopping a shot from Simon van Wees, McGee slid to his right to deny Will Forrest from in-close.
Prep weathered the storm and went ahead 2-1 when Carter Kral took a drop pass from Matthew Kernaghan and powered a shot past Ridgefield goalie Sean Gordon (25 saves) with 7:36 left in the second period.
The Tigers nearly got the equalizer with eight seconds remaining, but Walker's hard shot was snared by McGee's glove on a textbook save.
Undeterred, Ridgefield began the third period by keeping Prep bottled in its zone. Forrest had a snap shot that McGee stopped with his pad, and Brady McSpedon chipped a puck over the Prep net from right in front.
Gordon then came up with his best save of the night to stop Joseph Mancini, who split two Ridgefield defenders to get an open look.
Less than minutes later, however, Prep had its insurance goal. The Tigers were unable to clear the puck, allowing Skyler Celotto to take a shot from close range that Gordon stopped. But the rebound went to Caylb Reeves, who deposited a shot in the back of the net to give the Jesuits a 3-1 lead with 6:02 left.
Following a few more nice saves from McGee, Ridgefield pulled Gordon for an extra skater with just under 2:30 to play. Mancini then scored into the empty net with 1:48 left to finish off the Tigers.
Notes: Prep took a 1-0 lead on Ryan Eckert's goal just 2:35 into the first period.
Ridgefield's best chance in the opening 15 minutes came when Forrest sent a puck from the point that bounced off a Prep defender to Cullinan in front of the net. But McGee was there to make the save and keep the Tigers scoreless.