NEW HAVEN >> The Ridgefield boys hockey team scored three goals in a span of 24 seconds in the first period and Northwest Catholic never recovered as the Tigers went on to complete a story-book ending to its season in the CIAC Division I final on Monday.
In the first period, Nick Cullinan scored at 10:59, Matteo van Wees scored at 11:14, Jeff Pracella scored at 11:23 and No. 2 Ridgefield went on to defeat No. 1 Northwest Catholic 6-2 for the Tigers’ first Divison I title and second state title overall. They won a D-II title in 2002.
“To win this title and the FCIAC (tournament) title, to win both championships is special,” Ridgefield coach Shaun Gallagher said. “Every group that has played here has wanted it. This group got it done. The only way to describe it is they refused not to win.
“Beating Fairfield Prep in the quarterfinals gave us momentum the rest of the way. This title is for our school, it’s for our town, it’s for our youth hockey in town. This is something special for a lot of people.”
van Wees ended up with two goals and an assist, Jack Stafford and Cullinan each had a goal and two assists and Sean Keegans had 30 saves for Ridgefield (24-2).
— Sean Patrick Bowley (@SPBowley) March 20, 2017
Cullinan gave the Tigers a 1-0 lead, wristing a shot inside the right post for a 1-0. Off the ensuing faceoff, van Wees blasted a shot from about 10 feet out to make it 2-0. Ridgefield won the faceoff again. Van Wees controlled the puck and passed to Pracella in front of the net to make it 3-0.
Lions goalie Cal Skwara made 12 saves in the second period to keep the Tigers off the board, allowing Northwest Catholic to get back in the game with two unanswered goals.
Northwest Catholic’s Anthony Ceolin grabbed a loose puck at the right circle. He skated toward Keegans and scored in front of the right post to cut the Tigers lead to 3-1 at 8:22 of the second period.
The Lions spent the rest of the period swarming Keegans. Paul Arel wound for a slap shot about 10 feet in front the net and made it 3-2 with 1 minute left in the period.
The Lions had the momentum in the second period, but it quickly switched the Tigers way in the third period.
Will Forrest one-timed a shot to give the Tigers a 4-2 lead 53 seconds into the period. Stafford scored off a rebound to make it 5-2 at 6:14 and van Wees scored his second goal, a power-play goal, at 12:40 of the third period for the 6-2 final.
— Sean Patrick Bowley (@SPBowley) March 21, 2017
“Our game plan was to come out strong in the first period and that’s what we did,” van Wees said. “Scoring those three quick goals was big, everyone was locked down and focused. But we knew they would fight hard to come back. They had all the momentum in the second period with their two goals.
“Will Forrest’s quick goal was the big momentum changer for us in the third period. Another key for us was keeping their top player No. 12 (Ryan Sherba) off the board. He had some good looks and shots but our goalie came up big the whole game.”
Skwara had 28 saves for the Lions (21-4-1).
Ridgefield 6, Northwest Catholic 2
(at New Haven)
Ridgefield 3 0 3 – 6
Northwest Catholic 0 2 0 – 2
First period- RF: Nick Cullinan (Jack Stafford) 10:59; Matteo van Wees (Jeff Pracella, Jack McGeary) 11:14; Jeff Pracella (Matteo van Wees) 11:23; Second period- NWC: Anthony Ceolin 8:22; Paul Arel (Kevin Eustis) 14:00; Third period- RF: Will Forrest (Jack Stafford, Nick Cullinan) :53; Jack Stafford (Jonas Chang, nick cullinan) 6:14; Matteo Van Wees (Will Forrest) 12:40; Shots- RF: 34; NWC: 32; Saves- RF: Sean Keegans 30; NWC: Cal Skwara 28;
Records- Northwest Catholic 21-4-1; Ridgefield 24-2