DARIEN — There’s been a Granito suiting up for New Canaan’s boys hockey teams for more than 10 years. When it came time for Gunnar, the youngest of five siblings, to skate in his final senior night game on Monday, he made sure to put on a show.
Granito collected four goals and an assist, as the Rams rocked Greenwich, 6-1, in a key boys hockey game Monday night at the Darien Ice House.
The moment wasn’t lost on the Rams’ senior co-captain.
“It was a special night – my last home game ever,” Granito said. “My mom and dad are here supporting, so I was pretty excited. It’s been a long legacy so I think they’ve got to be pretty happy, too.”
“It’s pretty special,” New Canaan head coach Clark Jones said. “He’s been on fire lately and this was meaningful to him. For him to go out that way on his senior night was pretty incredible. He’s just got a release that goalies can’t really handle. He’s got speed to the outside and he drives to the net — he’s having a heck of a run right now.”
The victory gives the Rams (9-6 overall, 6-2 FCIAC) the inside track for the No. 3 seed in the conference playoffs, which would mean Granito and the rest of the seniors would earn another home game in the first round. They’ll play their final five games of the regular season on the road.
Greenwich (6-8-2, 4-3-1), which scored the first goal on Monday, couldn’t hold the lead as it surrendered three goals in each of the final two periods. The result continued the Cardinals’ recent trend of trading wins and loses as they’ve gone 4-4 in the past eight games
“It’s been our achilles heel all year,” Greenwich head coach Chris Rurak said. “We start off the first period great and then the second period has been our worst period and we’ve given up a lot of goals. It’s just mental lapses and the other teams are capitalizing on it. And we’re not getting many bounces. We’ll get the same opportunities and it just doesn’t go our way. We’ve got to play through it.”
Nic Pelletier-Martinelli put the Cardinals in front when he scored on the game’s first shot, just 1:22 after the opening drop. New Canaan goalie Dylan Shane slammed the door shut the rest of the way, making 17 saves.
“That’s who he is,” Jones said of Shane. “He doesn’t get rattled. He’s very calm in the net, so that kind of stuff doesn’t faze him, which is what you want from a goalie.”
Greenwich held the one-goal lead until early in the second period, when Ram defenseman Justin Wietfeldt slid a shot from the blue line through traffic and Boden Gammill tipped it inside the right pipe at the one-minute mark.
“First and last minutes of the period are always the biggest,” Granito said. “So that was huge. That set the tone right away and pushed them downhill really quick.”
Granito then went to work, scoring on back-to-back power plays to give New Canaan a 3-1 lead after two periods.
His first goal from the right side hit the glove of Greenwich goalie Ben Nash (21 saves) and bounced into the net. Sam Ives set up the next goal with a pass in front, with Granito slamming the puck home.
“We bounced back in that first period after they got that goal, and we were coming into the second period with the momentum, so the gates opened up,” Granito said. “They were taking a lot of dumb penalties, that helped a lot, and the power play started to get going.”
Early in the third period, Granito broke away and beat Nash with a back-hander for a 4-1 lead.
The line of Granito, Gammill, and Griffin Deane again looked strong, accounting for all six goals and 10 points.
“We had a bit of a hiccup in the beginning but we had a really quick bounce-back,” Jones said. “Our effort level has been through the roof for a while now, and then it’s finishing, and that line put up six goals. The effort level and the chances for the other lines were there too. We were able to get everybody in tonight and across the board, everybody did a great job.”
Shane looked solid in the third period, at one point stopping consecutive shots from Greenwich’s Julian Ribushofski, Matt Davey and Isaac Cadigan.
On the offensive end, Deane and Granito finished the scoring for the final 6-1 tally.
Rurak said the Cardinals are doing some “soul-searching” at the moment.
“We’re at the stage in the season where you’ve got to lift them up,” Rurak said. “We’ll end this season, then FCIAC finals is another season, and states is another season. So we’re going into the last four games where it’s more on them to discuss what they’re doing, how they’re feeling and how we can help each other get better.”
For New Canaan, the trend is definitely up. The Rams have won four of five games and the one loss was a well-played 4-3 overtime contest against rival Darien.
“With who we’ve got lined up in the last five games of the season, we’re in a great position,” Granito said. “These are going to be big games for us to build on some of the things we’ve been working on. And we’ve got two big games left (against Notre Dame-Fairfield and Xavier), so if we can get those wins going into the playoffs, it’s going to be big.”
PLAYER OF THE GAME
Gunnar Granito, New Canaan. The senior forward and two-year captain was magnificent in his final regular season home game, scoring four goals and dishing out one assist. He scored three straight goals during a span of seven minutes to turn a 1-1 tie into a 4-1 lead, propelling the Rams to victory.
“You want to be the team that’s gaining strength going into the playoffs and we’re definitely doing that. With the games ahead, we want to continue playing the way we’ve been playing over the last couple of weeks and ultimately, the success will follow.” — New Canaan head coach Clark Jones.
NEW CANAAN 6, GREENWICH 1
GREENWICH 1 0 0 – 1
NEW CANAAN 0 3 3 – 6
First Period: G – Nic Pelletier-Martinelli (Thatcher Danielson) 1:22; Second Period: NC – Boden Gammill (Justin Wietfeldt, Griffin Deane) 1:00; NC – Gunnar Granito (Brendan Knightly) 9:11; NC – Granito (Sam Ives) 13:50; Third Period: NC – Granito (Deane, Walker Ker) 1:10; NC – Deane (Granito, Gammill) 3:42; NC – Granito
Saves: G – Ben Nash 21; NC – Dylan Shane 17
Shots: G 18; NC 27
Records: Greenwich (6-8-2 overall, 4-3-1 FCIAC); New Canaan (9-6-0, 6-2-0)