Ridgefield downs Darien, 4-1, in state opener

When Darien finally broke through, Ridgefield had the perfect response: Two goals in less than a minute.

Those rapid-fire strikes led the second-seeded Tigers to a 4-1 victory over 15th-seed Darien in the first round of the Division I boys hockey state tournament Wednesday night at the Winter Garden Ice Arena in Ridgefield.

The Tigers (21-2-0) will now play seventh-seed Fairfield Prep in the quarterfinals on Saturday (March 11) at 1 p.m. at Bennett Rink in West Haven. Prep routed 10th-seed SGWL, 6-1, in another first-round game Wednesday.

Trailing 1-0 through two periods, Darien (8-12-1), the two-time defending Division I champion, got the tying goal on Alex Kostrzewski's power-play goal with 13:28 left in the final period.

But on its first power play of the contest, Ridgefield went ahead to stay as Jack McGeary deflected a shot from Matteo van Wees past Darien goalie Brendan Bumgardner (29 saves). Fifty-eight seconds later, Will Forrest added his second goal of the game (on an assist from Jonas Chang) to give the Tigers a 3-1 advantage.

"We didn't have our legs under us in the first two periods," said Ridgefield head coach Shaun Gallagher, whose team was coming off a 5-2 triumph over New Canaan in the FCIAC title game Saturday.

Landon Byers finished off the Tigers' 4-1 victory by scoring an unassisted, empty net goal with 1:40 remaining after Darien had pulled Bumgardner for an extra skater.

Ridgefield took a 1-0 lead when Forrest scored his first goal with 3:45 left in the opening period on assists from linemates Jack Stafford and Nick Cullinan.

Darien had the better of play in the second period but was unable to beat Ridgefield goalie Sean Keegans, who made 13 of his 29 saves in the period.

"He has certainly been a highlight for us this year," said Gallagher when asked about Keegans' effort Wednesday night.

Notes: Saturday's quarterfinal will be the third contest between Ridgefield and Fairfield Prep this season. The teams split the previous two games, with Ridgefield winning 2-1 in overtime on Dec. 18 and Prep prevailing 4-1 on Feb. 16.

Press Sports Reporter Chris Sacchi contributed to this story.