Ridgefield boys hockey plays for first D1 state title tonight

This much is certain: One team will win its first-ever Division 1 boys hockey state title.

That outcome became assured when top-seed Northwest Catholic and second-seed Ridgefield won their semifinal games last Friday to advance to tonight's championship game (7 p.m.) at Yale University's Ingalls Rink. Both teams are playing in their first Division 1 final: Ridgefield won a Division 2 state title back in 2002, while Northwest Catholic lost in the D3 finals in 2012.

Ridgefield, which has been ranked first in overall state polls throughout the season, defeated sixth-seed West Haven, 5-1, in the second semifinal Friday night at Ingalls Rink. The Tigers (23-2-0) displayed their scoring depth in the victory, getting goals from all three of their forward lines.

Jack Stafford supplied two goals, while Jeff Pracella and Charlie Luft each scored once. Defenseman Jack McGeary contributed the other Ridgefield goal.

Although Northwest Catholic (21-3-1) can't match Ridgefield's depth of quality forwards and defensemen, it does have several game-breaking threats, primarily senior forwards Anthony Ceolin and Ryan Sherba. Ceolin and Sherba, who play together on the top line, each scored two goals in Northwest Catholic's 6-3 semifinal win over New Canaan.

"Ceolin is probably the most dangerous forward in the state, and Sherba might be the second most dangerous," said Ridgefield head coach Shaun Gallagher. "They are nearly impossible to shut down completely."

But while Northwest can score goals (five per game) it also allows chances. New Canaan outshot the Lions, 38-19, in the semifinals, but was only able to get three attempts past Cal Skwara, Northwest's sophomore goalie.

Throughout the season, Ridgefield has relied on its six core defensemen to limit shots on senior goalie Sean Keegans, who is one of the state's best. Keegans, though, is more than capable of denying whatever comes his way; in Ridgefield's 4-3 quarterfinal win over Fairfield Prep, Keegans made 39 saves.

With Keegans and its quality depth, Ridgefield looks to have an advantage over Northwest Catholic. But to win their first Division I state title, the Tigers will need to contain Ceolin and Sherba, convert on chances, and stay out of the penalty box.

Notes: For each team's results and rosters, click here.

Ridgefield and Northwest Catholic did not meet during the regular season. Ridgefield was 9-1-0 and Northwest Catholic 6-3-1 against common opponents.