RIDGEFIELD — By their blue-chip standards, the Fairfield Prep and Ridgefield boys hockey teams played a ragged season opener Wednesday night at the Winter Garden. Passes were missed, pucks weren’t cleared, and quality scoring chances were few and far between.
That said, both head coaches — Matt Sather of Prep and Shaun Gallagher of Ridgefield — spotted encouraging signs. For Sather, one of those was his team’s response to allowing a goal.
Less than four minutes after Ridgefield tied the game, Kyle Colucci scored what proved to be the winning goal with 4:01 left in the third period as Prep posted a 2-1 road victory.
“I liked that we seemed to pick it up once they scored,” Sather said. “I thought we played our best hockey after that.”
Prep won the Division I state championship last March and enters this season ranked first in the GameTimeCT poll. Ridgefield, which won its first 22 games in 2018-19 before being upset by Xavier in the state quarterfinals, is ranked fourth.
But both teams suffered heavy graduation losses, and those departures were aesthetically evident in Wednesday’s game.
“It was a little sloppy,” Gallagher said. “Both teams were sloppy making passes … some of the basic passes that I know two or three weeks in (to the regular season) we will make and they will make. But they are a good team, and they buried one more chance than we did.”
Colucci did the burying, converting a pass from Thomas Quinn while falling to the ice.
“Tommy Quinn has the puck … I see an open lane and cut to the middle and he makes a great pass and I’m able to get it, and I have a second and am able to put it in the back of the net,” Colucci said.
Following a scoreless first period, Prep went ahead when Roberts Viguls converted a sweet pass from Matt Wenger with 12 minutes remaining in the second period. Defenseman Cooper Eckert also got an assist on the goal.
The Jesuits preserved that lead until Michael Conciatore scored the equalizer for Ridgefield with 7:37 left in the final period. A minute later, Kees van Wees came close to putting the Tigers ahead, blasting a shot off the post.
But Colucci followed with the go-ahead goal and Prep was able to close out the victory after Ridgefield pulled goalie Matt Silliman for an extra skater.
“I think we sat on that (1-0) lead too much and then they scored and it woke us up,” Sather said. “The game was between a couple of teams with a lot of new guys sort of feeling each other out. But I’m glad to get the win; Ridgefield is always a tough team to beat.”
Fairfield Prep 2, Ridgefield 1
PREP 0 1 1 — 2
RIDGEFIELD 0 1 0 — 1
Goals: Kyle Colucci (Prep), Roberts Viguls (Prep), Michael Conciatore (Ridgefield). Assists: Matt Wenger (Prep), Cooper Eckert (Prep), Thomas Quinn (Prep). Saves: Andrew Stietzel (Prep) 18; Matt Silliman (Ridgefield) 17.