Nearly at the halfway point of its season, two-time defending FCIAC champion Greenwich sports a record of 6-3 and finds itself in third place in the conference standings — a solid position by any team’s standards, but the Cardinals are aiming for more.
“Our best hockey is still ahead of us, no one should be counting us out,” Cardinals coach Alex Lerchen said. “We’ve done pretty well so far, though we have the same amount of losses as we had all of last year, which has been tough. But we’ve had some injuries and adversity to deal with, so it’s been a challenge.”
Greenwich began its season with four consecutive victories, including an exciting 3-2 win over rival New Canaan before a large crowd at the 2018 Winter Classic, which was held outdoors at Greenwich Skating Club.
A tough 2-1 loss to Ridgefield-Danbury and a 3-1 defeat at the hands of Simsbury followed the New Canaan victory, then after beating Stamford-Westhill-Staples, 8-0, the Cards dropped a 2-0 decision to Darien.
Monday saw the Cardinals get back on the winning track with a decisive 6-1 triumph on the road against Wilton-Norwalk. Senior forward Jennifer Kelly tallied twice, while freshman forward Lexi Danielson and forward Riley Geary each added first-period goals for the victors. Danielson also finished the game with a pair of tallies.
Following a scoreless second period, senior defender Sydney Orszulak and Fiona Breier had one goal apiece in the final stanza for Greenwich, which received stellar play in goal from freshman Morgan Dall. Senior forwards Grace Fahey and Paige Finneran each registered two assists, while sophomore Emiri Fukuchi also assisted on two goals.
“We controlled the play early and we were able to get a lot of players into the game,” Lerchen said of his team’s play against Wilton-Norwalk. “The way we moved the puck in the zone was impressive and we defended our zone well.”
Danielson has been especially instrumental in enabling the Cards to efficiently move the puck. Her freshman season has seen her record a team-leading (15 points, eight goals, seven assists) through nine games.
“Lexi is smart player with really good stick skills who can shoot,” Lerchen said. “She benefits from having an older brother who is a player (Thatcher Danielson, on GHS boys hockey team) and through her aggressiveness, she has fit right into the team as a freshman.”
Kelly, known for tallying in key moments, ranks second on the squad in scoring with seven goals and six assists.
“Jen is an aggressive player and when she is on, she can be the toughest forward in the state to deal with,” Lerchen said.
Junior forward Emma Wingrove (five goals, seven assists) and junior defender Katie Piotrzkowski (three goals, seven assists) have also sparked the Cards offensively.
“Emma’s had a nice year so far and has a lethal shot,” Lerchen said. “She has great chemistry out there with Jen Kelly and Katie is a quiet, steady, defender who moves the puck well.”
Sydney Orszulak (four goals, five assists on the season), a junior defender, brings her offensive prowess to the blue line.
“Sydney doesn’t make mistakes and her ability to contribute on offense is important for us,” Lerchen said. “We’d love to see her keep shooting more.”
Finneran (two goals, six assists), Fahey (two goals, five assists, sophomore Delaney Roth (three goals, one assist), junior Jessica Marzullo (three points) and senior defender Hayley Duffy (three points) have also made their mark on the ice.
Quality goaltending hasn’t been an issue for the Cardinals with sophomore Hannah Goldenberg and Dall situated between the pipes.
“We are really lucky to have two really strong goalies,” Lerche said. “They are fun to watch compete every day in practice and they bring that intensity into games. We couldn’t happier with how they have done.”
After playing Darien last week, Greenwich faces another big test Friday night against New Canaan in a rematch of the Winter Classic. This matchup against the rival Rams will be held at Darien Ice House at 8:20 p.m.
“Darien ice rink is a tough place to play and a fun place to play, especially if there is a big crowd,” Lerchen said. “After losing to us at the Winter Classic, they are going to be fired up, so it will be a good test for our team.”
As of Tuesday, New Canaan and Darien were tied for first place in the FCIAC with a conference mark of 5-1, while 5-2 in FCIAC play.
“New Canaan is certainly the deepest team in the FCIAC, they don’t have any weaknesses at all and they can throw three lines at you and can grind you down,” Lerchen said. Darien — this is the best they played all season. Darien is always going to be in the mix. It’s going to be really competitive.”