Following a week-long layoff, the unbeaten Ridgefield High boys hockey team shook off the rust with two wins in two days.
The Tigers turned a tight contest into a 5-1 triumph over Trumbull at the Rinks At Shelton on Friday, then blanked St. Joseph of Trumbull, 8-0, in Shelton on Saturday night.
With the victories, Ridgefield improved to 13-0 heading into this week’s busy schedule, which features four games in seven days.
Against Trumbull, the Tigers led 1-0 after one period as Kees van Wees scored on an assist from Kevin McNicholas.
“To Trumbull’s credit they came out skating hard and their goalie (Alex Tsymbalyuk) made some key saves to keep the game close,” Ridgefield coach Shaun Gallagher said.
Ridgefield tested Tsymbalyuk early and often, registering more than 40 shots in the game
The Tigers made it 2-0 when van Wees set up Owen Luft to finish a perfectly executed two-on-one just 1:12 into the middle period.
Ridgefield kept on the pressure and went on a power play but it was the Eagles who scored next, as Alex Chopskie, set up by Alex Jackel, found the net for a shorthanded goal.
Suddenly, a game that seemed Ridgefield was dominating was 2-1 with 7:51 to play in the second.
But the Tigers did capitalize on that same man-advantage with Brady McSpedon skating the puck out from behind the goal line and lifting a shot high into the Trumbull net for a 3-1 lead just 58 seconds later. Matt Walker and Luft had the helpers on the goal.
Henry Garlick increased Ridgefield’s lead to 4-1 when he deposited a high shot with 2:50 left in the period. Garlick gloved a flip pass from Will Forrest after Forrest kept the puck in at the point.
The Tigers added a power-play goal only 55 seconds into the third when Simon van Wees converted off an assist by Forrest to finish the scoring.
Ridgefield skates hard and fast, and the play of its defenders pinching in at the right times helps the Tigers maintain control in the offensive zone.
“I think our D have been doing a really good job of making that decision: When to go and when to hold back. If you get too aggressive every time it’s going to go against you,” Gallagher said.
Gallagher was pleased with his team’s overall play, especially that of Garlick, a senior center. “He played exceptionally in all three zones,” Gallagher said.
The goals for McSpedon and Simon van Wees, both defensemen, were their first of the year.
“It was good to see them execute and get rewarded because they’ve been playing great all year,” Gallagher said.
On Saturday night, the Tigers executed from the get-go against St. Joseph, scoring three times in the first period and five more times in the second.
Nick Cullinan finished with four goals and an assist, while Walker, Will Stewart, Kees van Wees, and Garlick added one goal apiece.
Garlick registered a trio of assists, and Forrest and McSpedon each had two assists. Patrick Rigby, Mills Rosenblatt and Luke Welsh also had assists for Ridgefield.
After the layoff, Gallagher said he was looking forward to Ridgefield’s jam-packed schedule.
“I’m excited to get the guys more game time,” Gallagher said. “It’s hard to replicate game situations in practices.”