DARIEN — At the end of last season, Jack Eccleston approached New Canaan boys ice hockey coach Clark Jones for some guidance.
“He said he wanted to play an important role the next year and asked what he needed to do to make that happen,” Jones said. “We sat down and went over things and he did it all.”
The Rams are now reaping the benefits.
Eccleston set up Michael Rayher for the opening goal and then scored the second to set the tone in No. 4 New Canaan’s 5-1 win over No. 6 Ridgefield Saturday at the Darien Ice House.
— Dave Stewart (@DStewartSports) February 13, 2021
The Rams showed their depth as 11 different players had at least one point.
“When everyone’s producing, it makes it a lot easier and you’re having a lot of fun on the ice,” Eccleston, a senior, said. “When you’re controlling the game, it’s fun going out for every shift and it makes it easy to produce.”
The victory concluded an up-and-down first week for the Rams (2-1), who topped No. 1 Fairfield Prep 2-1 on Monday before falling to No. 3 Notre Dame-West Haven Wednesday at Bennett Rink. The loss had New Canaan pouring over game film the past few days.
“We had to clean up a lot of our own zone so that we could create the other way,” Jones said. “They did a great job with that today. We had a lot more clean outs out of our zone and we created offensively. And we pressured the puck really well, which we did not do against Notre Dame.”
New Canaan was in command against the Tigers (0-2), scoring three goals in the first period, including two in a span of eight seconds. The Rams led 4-0 when Ridgefield’s Chris Hamilton netted a power play goal, but that was it for the Tigers.
“The better team won,” Ridgefield coach Shaun Gallagher said. “They showed their experience and they showed their size and strength over us for sure. I liked the push-back by our group in the second period after we got rolled over a little bit in the first period.
“New Canaan’s a good hockey team, they’ve got a good goalie, and there aren’t many weak parts, so it’s hard to compete with teams like that without having really strong structure and decision-making.”
Eccleston and Rayher connected to start the scoring with a text-book play at 10:04 of the first period.
“I picked both of the defensemen’s pockets, beat them pretty clean, and then I saw Rayher in front of the net,” Eccleston said. “I just sent it over to him and he chipped it in. It was pretty simple.”
“He’s faster and he’s stronger,” Jones said of Eccleston. “He’s always had a great sense of the ice and it’s all coming together, which is really great. He did the right things last year without playing a ton and now all of his hard work is showing.”
Eccleston scored the Rams’ second goal off a pass from linemate Griffin Deane with 3:07 to play in the first period, and eight seconds later, Carter Ellis hit the net with an assist from Doster Crowell.
New Canaan is hoping its depth will continue to show.
“The answer is on the board,” Eccleston said. “We’re putting points on the board so it’s working really well.”
PLAYER OF THE GAME
Jack Eccleston, New Canaan: The senior wing had a hand in the Rams’ first two goals, assisting on the first and scoring the second to set the tone.
“In the first few games, (the scoring) has been very spread out. Part of that is coming together quickly and figuring out the combinations and chemistry. The lines tonight were a little bit different than they were in the last two games and it’s about finding the right combinations going forward.” — New Canaan coach Clark Jones