Receiving a pass from Jennifer Kelly all alone in front of the net, Sydney Orszulak directed her one-timer inside the right post, giving the Greenwich High School girls ice hockey team one of its biggest goals of the season on Monday night.
Orszulak’s tally gave the Cardinals a 2-1 lead on rival New Canaan with 7:16 remaining in the third period and that goal proved to be the difference in this matchup between two FCIAC powers.
In a game with first place in the FCIAC at stake, Greenwich skated to an exciting 2-1 win over New Canaan at Darien Ice Rink. The victory improved Greenwich’s record to 15-2-1 overall and 11-1-1 in the FCIAC. The Cardinals’ are in first place in the FCIAC with 23 points. New Canaan is 16-3 overall and in second place in the conference with an 11-2 mark (22 points).
With the score tied at 1-1 and on a power play, Greenwich capitalized. Passing the puck around the perimeter, Kelly slid a diagonal pass to Orszulak, who was positioned at the left crease. She quickly knocked the puck from close in past Rams freshman goalie Blythe Novick, making it 2-1
“It was a new power play we were trying and I was staying in front of the net to get the rebounds,” said Orszulak, a sophomore defender. “Jen Kelly made a really nice pass and I tried to get it in the net with all I could. On the power play, we kept moving and I was able to get open.”
The showdown for first place in the conference was another well-played game teams such as Greenwich, New Canaan and Darien usually play against each other.
“It was a pretty special game,” GHS coach Alex Lerchen said. “The girls played their hearts out, they really did. Both teams played their hearts out, it was one of the best hockey games I’ve been a part of.”
Cardinals freshman goalie Hannah Goldenberg made 20 saves, 12 of which came during the second period.
“I was trying to focus on stopping the puck,” Goldenberg said. “It was an exciting game and I had a lot of fun. I thought we did a really good job of killing off the power plays New Canaan had. They had three or four and we did a good job of killing them off.”
Said Lerchen: “Hannah saved us, she really did. She made some outstanding saves.”
Novick was also impressive in goal, turning away 21 Greenwich shots.
“It wasn’t for lack of effort or the way we skated or anything like that,” Rams coach Rich Bulan said of his squad’s defeat. “We’re not built to make mistakes. You make a mistake here or there and it’s going to come back to hurt you. They took advantage of the chances they got and boom, the puck is in the net. They are a very good team.”
Following a scoreless first period, New Canaan applied plenty of pressure on GHS in its zone for a good portion of the second period. The Cardinals killed the Rams’ first power play early in the second period, as sophomore Emily Bello and junior Paige Finneran cleared the puck out of their team’s zone.
Sophomore Quincy Connell nearly scored at the 10-minute mark of the second period off a feed from freshman Anika Curri and Goldenberg made a save off a breakaway attempt by senior Elizabeth McCarthy with 7:27 to go in the period.
The Rams eventually broke through though, taking the lead with 3:17 left in the second stanza. Gathering a pass from Connell, freshman Courtney O’Connell went top shelf with her wrist shot from between the circles, putting the home team ahead, 1-0.
Outshot 13-9, during the second period, the Cards wasted little time in tallying the equalizer in the final period. Winning the face-off to start the period, the puck went to senior forward Riley Ellsworth, who was positioned just past center ice near the boards. Ellsworth threw the puck toward the net and it deflected off a Rams’ player’s stick and skate and found its way into the net, tying the score at 1-1 just 12 seconds into the third period.
“In the locker room we were talking about scoring on the first shift and that’s all I had in mind,” Ellsworth said. “I was just trying to focus on getting shots on net. I didn’t even see it go in the net until everyone was hugging me.”
The third period was evenly played, then Orszulak struck with her stick side tally from the left crease.
Both teams still have one conference game remaining on their respective schedules.
“It’s a big win, we put ourselves in great position to win our league and go into the FCIAC tournament as the No. 1-seed, which is what we are all hoping for,” Ellsworth said.
“I am really happy and excited about how the team is playing,” Goldenberg said. “We are building momentum for FCIACs.”
Bulan knows the postseason should be interesting to watch.
“Playoff hockey — it’s going to be fun,” Bulan said. “It’s one of those years where you can put us, Darien, Greenwich, Amity and Hamden in a hat in the state playoffs and you are going to have a great game.”
GREENWICH 2, NEW CANAAN 1
GREENWICH 0 1 1 — 2
NEW CANAAN 0 1 0 — 1
Goals: G — Riley Ellsworth, Sydney Orszulak; NC — Courtney O’Connell; Assists: G — Jennifer Kelly; NC — Quincy Connell; Goalies: G — Hannah Goldenberg (20 saves); NC — Blythe Novick (21 saves).
Records: Greenwich 15-2-1; New Canaan 16-3