Starting its season with three straight losses didn’t cause the members of the Greenwich boys ice hockey team to panic, or doubt themselves.
Instead, the Cardinals kept their cool and have since, been red hot on the ice.
Since an 0-3 start in which it suffered two overtime losses, Greenwich has won five of its last six games to improve its record to 5-4 near the midway point of the season.
“It all starts with leadership in the locker room,” GHS coach Chris Rurak said of his team’s focus through adverse times. “We have four great captains, who have been there before. They have a lot of experience and a lot of credit goes to them for keeping the locker room calm. Our leaders of the team have faced a lot of different situations, so they know how to ride the high points of the season and weather the low points.”
The Cardinals’ latest high point occurred Wednesday night when they topped Trumbull, 4-1, in an FCIAC matchup at Dorothy Hamill Skating Rink — a victory that moved their record to 2-0 in the FCIAC.
Over the course of the Cards’ first nine games, they have gone to overtime four times, going 2-2 in the process. They lost to New Canaan and Xavier in overtime, then needed an extra period to defeat Immaculate and Darien. Greenwich also edged Northwest Catholic, 3-2, so it is familiar with competing in close matchups.
“When we scheduled our first 11 games, we knew we needed to up our game,” Rurak said. “With some new kids on the team, it’s a chance for them to find out how difficult it is to score and win. You get to see how mentally tough your kids are.”
Receiving scoring from multiple sources, Greenwich has improved its offensive output as the season has progressed. Sophomore forward Wesley Zolin leads the Cards in points with seven goals and six assists.
“His puck pursuit is impressive and he’s very tenacious,” Rurak said of Zolin. “He will hunt down a guy and get the puck. He’s gritty and highly skilled.”
Also a sophomore, Ivan Kovalev, the son of former longtime NHL player Alexei Kovalev, has registered six goals and two assists through nine games. Skating on a line with Zolin and Kovalev is junior Jack Hutchins, who has also consistently lit the lamp of late.
“Kovalev, Zolin and Jack have turned into a big scoring line the last couple of games,” Rurak said. “We’ve been noticing what players complement each other and they’ve played well together.”
In the Cardinals’ triumph against Trumbull on Wednesday, freshman forward Tayaka Shoji scored his first career goal in the opening period, giving GHS a 1-0 lead.
Junior forward Dylan Kronengold and Kovalev each tallied during the second period, while Hutchins added a third-period goal for the victors.
Zolin registered three assists and junior defenseman Ben Bates helped set up two goals.
“Our game against Trumbull was great,” Rurak said. “We had 44 shots and four goals, so we are still looking for more production. We hit some posts and had some shots go wide, so we would like to capitalize on more of our chances. I don’t know if goalies are playing great against us, or if we are making them look extra good.”
Greenwich’s goalies have certainlylooked sharp. Senior quad-captain Ben Nash and sophomore Charlie Zolin have effectively rotated in goal. Nash got the start Wednesday in the win over Trumbull for Greenwich, which has allowed more than three goals in only two of its first nine games.
“I tell them both that I have the utmost confidence in both of them on any given night,” Rurak said. “We are rotating them game-by-game. They are in competition amongst each other, but it’s a healthy competition, they get along great.”
Thatcher Danielson, a senior quad-captain and Bates have provided scoring from the blue line, which has also been seen junior Chris Cataldo, senior captain Ryan Columbo and several others spark the squad.
“Our defensemen have done a good job of keeping their play simple,” Rurak said. “They are very sound, skilled and they’ve been able to keep a lot of shots to the outside, which has helped the goalie out.”
Indeed, the Cardinals coach has begun to see his squad’s depth pay dividends.
“Being able to roll four lines has been key,” he said. “Some teams in the third period, have to clamp down and run two lines and four defensemen, so we can wear them down.”
Greenwich, which has lost in the championship game of the FCIAC Tournament the past two seasons, hosts Fairfield Warde/Ludlowe on Sunday, then is on the road for games against Wilton and Westhill/Stamford next week.
“I think we are primed and ready to do great things this year and next year too,” Rurak said. “There is a lot of upside to our team and we’re very optimistic about what we can accomplish.”