Ridgefield takes hits, makes plays, tops Prep

The Ridgefield High softball team celebrates its win over West Haven in the second round of the Class LL state tournament. — Christian Abraham / Hearst Connecticut Media
The Ridgefield High softball team celebrates its win over West Haven in the second round of the Class LL state tournament. — Christian Abraham / Hearst Connecticut Media

Hunched over while skating off the ice after the second period, down temporarily after scoring what proved to be the game-wining goal, Will Forrest still said he felt fine afterward.

“Take a hit to make a play,” Forrest said after scoring both goals in the Ridgefield High boys hockey team's 2-1 victory over Fairfield Prep on Wednesday night at the Winter Garden.

Forrest, a senior center, scored from in front of the net twice, registering a power-play goal in the first period and adding the deciding tally with 12:42 left in the third period — less than two minutes after Prep had tied the game.

“When you go to the net, good things happen,” Forrest said after helping Ridgefield, the state's top-ranked team, improve its record to 18-0. “You’re able to put in those garbage goals off the wall, and that’s how you win those games.”

“We’re not going to dangle through six guys and then put it top-shelf,” Forrest added. “We’re going to crash the net and put it in those empty nets. That’s what Ridgefield hockey does and why we’ve been so successful as of late. It’s what we do.”

Ridgefield goalie Sean Gordon made 22 saves, with a couple of huge stops on Matt Wenger during a long five-on-three for Prep in the second period.

The third-ranked Jesuits (8-8) came out putting bodies on Forrest’s wingers, Nick Cullinan and Matt Walker; Walker drew two penalties, and the Tigers scored on an interference penalty that Fairfield Prep took while on a power play of its own.

It was a hard, physical game …

“Ehh,” Jesuits coach Matt Sather said to that. “We played silly for two periods, running around like — silliness.

“We were just out of control for certainly the first period. The second period … we just didn’t execute on our power play. Five-on-three, got to execute better on that. Third period, I thought we did all right.”

Colin Bella’s power-play goal on a one-timer off a pass from Calyb Reeves got the Jesuits even at 1-1 just 29 seconds into the third period.

The Tigers got that goal back quickly. Cullinan fought through a hit behind the Jesuits net and got the puck to Walker. Walker’s shot went wide but caromed off the endboards for Forrest to put home.

Forrest took a hit after the puck trickled in and needed a few seconds to get up. He’d taken another hit up high with 1.5 seconds left in the second period while going hard to the net.

Forrest scored on a power-play rebound 9:19 into the game as the Tigers controlled the first period.

“Hats off to them. They played hard. They’ve got a bunch of guys who can score. Their goalie’s good,” Sather said. “We didn’t do ourselves any favors.”

Ridgefield also won the teams’ first meeting, 5-2, in the season opener Dec. 12.

“Their team, every year, not just this year, they improve every year in all facets. They have great coaching. That’s evident in their success,” Ridgefield coach Shaun Gallagher said about Prep. “With our guys, it’s continually trying to race with teams like Prep, to play with pace and be prepared for nights like tonight.”

The Tigers can close out an unbeaten regular season by beating Division III Wilton on Friday and Division II Westhill/Stamford on Monday.

No CIAC team has finished a regular season unbeaten since New Canaan went 20-0 in 2010-11. No unbeaten team has finished the job with a state championship since Enfield in 1982-83.

“You always forget about the record. I couldn’t tell you who we’re playing the game after next one. I couldn’t tell you who we played last game,” Forrest said. “We’re focused on the next game, focused on getting better for the next game, and eventually playoffs will just be upon us. You can’t play for a goal in the future.”