Possessing depth at forward, an experienced group of defensemen and a strong rotation in goal, the Greenwich boys hockey team has the components in place to return to a familiar destination — the FCIAC Tournament finals.
The Cardinals earned a berth in the title game of the conference tournament the past two seasons, where they lost to rival Ridgefield. Getting back to the finals and advancing deep in the state tournament are always daunting challenges, but the Cardinals believe they have the potential to do so — if they do the little things that often go unnoticed.
“Staying out of the penalty box, staying discipline and playing as a team will be keys for our team,” GHS coach Chris Rurak said. “They are ready to play smart hockey. There is a lot of hockey IQ on this team.”
Added Cardinals senior goalie/quad-captain Ben Nash: “Hockey is about the little things and if we do the little things right, we will pick up some more wins and and accomplish our goals.”
In the competitive FCIAC, which includes formidable foes such as Ridgefield, New Canaan and Darien, each unit of a team must display cohesion and consistency.
Senior defensemen/captains Michael Connerty and Ryan Columbo should help bring such aspects to the blue line.
“Our defense is really strong this year, we are really deep defensively, with six guys and three goaltenders,” Columbo said. “We have some chemistry and we are looking sharp and ready to go.”
The Cardinals open their season Monday against one of their arch rivals, New Canaan, at Darien Ice House.
“We have a good mixture of returning and new guys, who will help us,” Connerty said. “We are really fast, with a lot of guys, who can blow by the opposing team’s defense. So I think that will help us this year, as it did last year.”
Junior Thatcher Danielson has the potential to be one of Greenwich’s threats, offensively.
“We have a lot of young guys, but our lines are balanced,” said Danielson, who will center one of the Cards’ top lines. “We have guys who have accurate shots and are fast.”
Said Connerty: “Our goals are to win FCIACs and states, win as many games as we can and for our seniors, we want to make our last season count.”
AT THE HELM: Rurak begins his fourth season as coach of the Cardinals. Greenwich registered a record of 11-11-2 during its 2018-19 season. They defeated New Canaan and Darien in the first two rounds of the FCIAC Tournament, before losing to Ridgefield in the championship game. At the CIAC Division I Tournament, they were edged by New Canaan, 2-1, in overtime.
During his first three seasons as coach, Rurak has compiled a record of 38-23-2.
Tri-captains/forwards Matt Davey, Charlie Graves and Sean Pratley were among the graduates from last season’s successful squad.
Andrew Frost, Dylan Madden, Julian Ribushofski, Isaac Cadigan, Connor Brust, Dylan Dreher, Nicholas Pelletier-Martinelli and George Getz also graduated.
Junior Jake Shreders, Danielson, Wes Zolin (sophomore), Dylan Kronengold (junior), Sean Duffy (junior), Sam Milazzo (junior), John Cataldo (junior), Damian Desforges (junior) and junior John Hutchins are each returning forwards.
“We have a lot of guys who can score, which helps, because we can balance our three lines,” Danielson said.
Defensemen Columbo, Connerty, junior Chris Cataldo, sophomore Aidan Price and Ben Bates (junior) bring experience to the squad. Returning in goal are Nash and sophomore Charlie Zolin, who had a strong postseason last winter.
NEWCOMERS: Forward Ivan Kovalev, Shoji Takaya (forward), and William Matthews, each begin their first season up front. Peter Lewis joins the Cards’ list of defensemen, as does Jesse Jordan.
STRENGTHS: “The last two years we rode one or two guys on offense and that was the key to our success,” Rurak said. “But with these guys, we have four solid lines. I have no hesitation in putting our fourth line out there against the other team’s first line. With our depth, I feel we can outlast teams and grind them down.”
Said Columbo: “We also have really good depth in our defensive zone, with a good core group of guys coming back.”
QUOTABLE: “The losses in the postseason were tough for us last season, but we have worked hard together in the offseason and hopefully, we’ll have a different outcome this season,” Nash said. “Ridgefield, Darien and New Canaan are always good teams. The conference as a whole, will be pretty even.”