Ridgefield boys hockey team routs Xavier

In its first two games this season, the Ridgefield High boys hockey team faced the only two opponents it lost to last season.

After opening with a 6-1 loss to Fairfield Prep — ranked first in the state preseason polls — the Tigers bounced back in a massive way: Getting two goals apiece from junior wingers Will Forrest and Nick Cullinan, Ridgefield routed Xavier, 7-1, on Saturday night at the Winter Garden.

Following a banner-unveiling ceremony to honor last year's FCIAC and state champion squad, the Tigers took a quick 1-0 lead when Forrest capitalized on a pass from Cullinan. Cullinan and Forrest were an electric duo on last year’s second line, finishing first and third, respectively, in points for Ridgefield. On the first line this season, Forrest and Cullinan have picked up right where they left off, recording points in each of the Tigers' first two games.

With 6:28 left in the first period, Ridgefield went on the power play after a hooking call on Xavier. Thirty-one seconds later, junior Matt Walker took a penalty, creating a four-on-four situation before Xavier had a brief power play. But neither team was able to capitalize on its advantage as the score stayed 1-0.

On its next power play, however, Ridgefield would not be denied. Following a Xavier penalty late in the first period, Walker scored on a wrist shot off an assist from sophomore Kees van Wees, the younger brother of 2017 graduate Matteo van Wees, who was the Connecticut High School Coaches Association Player of the Year last winter.

Early in the second period, Cullinan found Forrest again for a goal and a 3-0 lead. After Ridgefield killed a penalty, Xavier was able to convert on its second power-play opportunity of the period, as captain Tony Dipreta ripped a slapshot from the blue line that found its way past junior goalie Sean Gordon.

Instead of shifting momentum, the goal fired up the Tigers. Cullinan scored two power-play goals on assists from Walker to stretch Ridgefield's lead to 6-1, and later in the period van Wees slithered through the Xavier defense for a one-on-one with the goalie, neatly depositing a shot into the back of the net.

Junior Braeden McSpedon added a goal off a pass from classmate Jack Pereira to push the lead to 7-1 and provide the exclamation point on a huge win for Ridgefield.

“The boys were ready to go after the loss [to Fairfield Prep], especially because Xavier was one of the two teams that beat us last year,” said senior defenseman Ty Fujitani. "We came out hard, skated well, and capitalized on our chances.”

“It’s not only a statement to last year but also the last game against Prep,” added senior center Del Irving. “We’re proving to ourselves and other teams that Ridgefield is back again this year.”