Ridgefield tops Prep in OT, advances to state semis

Nick Cullinan's overtime goal capped a stunning rally as the Ridgefield High boys hockey team defeated perennial power Fairfield Prep, 4-3, in the Division I state quarterfinals Saturday afternoon at Bennett Rink in West Haven.

The second-seeded Tigers trailed 3-1 through two periods but scored two goals in less than 30 seconds early in the third period to tie the game.

Ridgefield (22-2) will now face sixth-seed West Haven in the semifinals on Wednesday (March 15) at 7:30 at Yale University's Ingalls Rink in New Haven. West Haven beat third-seed Xavier, 4-1, in another quarterfinal Saturday.

A victory in the semis would send the Tigers to the Division I championship game (March 18, 2 p.m. at Ingalls Rink) for the first time in school history.

Ridgefield went ahead 1-0 on Jonas Chang's rebound goal just over nine minutes into the second period. But seventh-seed Prep got the equalizer 19 seconds later from Devin Blanchette and then added goals from Carter Kral and Joey Mancini in a 61-second span to take a 3-1 lead after two periods.

Will Forrest began the Ridgefield comeback by scoring with 12:10 left in the final period. Just 23 seconds later, the Tigers got the tying goal from Matteo van Wees.

Neither team scored during the rest of the third period, and the game headed to overtime.

Cullinan then supplied the game-winner when he scored on an assist from Chang just 3:21 into the extra session.

"One of the greatest feelings," said Cullinan. "Was such a fun game and I'm so happy to play for these guys ... and we pulled this one out against Prep, one of our greatest rivals."

"We didn't back down," said Ridgefield head coach Shaun Gallagher. "It was 3-1 (Fairfield Prep), but our guys had confidence in themselves. They didn't get carried away by the pressure... Once we scored those two goals at the beginning of the third (period) I knew we were ready to win."

Notes: Ridgefield goalie Sean Keegans continued his stellar play, stopping 39 of Prep's 42 shots on net. Prep goalie Chris Ligas made 31 saves.

Top-seed Northwest Catholic and fourth-seed New Canaan will play in the first semifinal on Wednesday at 5:30 at Ingalls Rink.

Press Sports Reporter Chris Sacchi contributed to this story.