DARIEN — Playing in overtime is familiar territory for the Greenwich boys hockey team and scoring the game-winner in the extra period is certainly nothing new to Ivan Kovalev.
The sophomore forward ended the Cardinals’ game against Immaculate on Jan. 4 with an overtime goal and Monday, Kovalev provided another dramatic tally — this time against FCIAC rival Darien.
Kovalev’s goal with 5:01 remaining in overtime lifted Greenwich to a spirited 3-2 comeback win over Darien at Darien Ice House.
The Cardinals, who trailed the Blue Wave, 2-0, late in the second period, avenged a 5-3 loss they suffered against Darien at the Winter Classic at Greenwich Skating Club on Dec. 28.
— CT HS Hockey (@CTHSHockey) January 14, 2020
“This is a big win, because it’s redemption for the Winter Classic,” Kovalev said. “It’s also a big win to lead us forward in the season. We are heading in the right direction, we just hope we can keep it that way.”
On the game-winner, Kovalev snapped a backhanded shot from close in that hit the crossbar and the puck snuck past Darien junior goalie Teddy DeBeradinis 2:59 into the eight-minute overtime period. Junior Chris Cataldo registered the initial shot on goal from the point and Kovalev gathered the rebound on the winning tally.
“There was a shot on net and I just saw the rebound and I picked it up, took a backand and it hit the crossbar and went in,” Kovalev said. “When I saw it hit the net, I went to go celebrate with the boys. It was amazing.”
The Blue Wave outshot the Cardinals, 38-25, but GHS senior goalie Ben Nash was strong in net throughout. Darien created numerous opportunities during the second and third period, but Nash held the home team to a pair of goals.
“It’s nice to finally break out and get that big win we needed for momentum, but it’s just the start for the season and we have a lot more to prove,” Nash said. “Overtime is tiring, it’s always intense, but it’s the same as every period. I just tried to stop every puck I could.”
Creating space for himself on the left wing, GHS senior defenseman Ryan Columbo converted a snap shot from the face-off circle, evening the score at 2-2 at the 10:44 mark of the second period.
“Overall, it was a solid performance,” Cardinals coach Chris Rurak said. “The team rallied and came back. When you down 2-1 after the second period, there is a good feeling in the locker room. We said, when you come back in here, there is going to be two heroes. The guy that gets the next one and the guy that gets the game-winner — it held true.”
Darien (4-2), which had its three-game winning streak snapped, took a 1-0 lead 1:38 into the opening period on junior forward James Conway’s goal. Junior forward Danny Lowe and junior defenseman Matthew Stein each assisted on the game’s first goal. The Cards outshot the Blue Wave, 8-4, in the opening period, but Darien got more pucks on net in the second period, holding a 16-6 shots-on-goal advantage.
“Our game got a little better as the game went on,” Darien assistant coach Pat Gore said. “Greenwich came out with more intensity. They were harder on pucks, harder in all three zones. There were times when we got to our game and we got our legs going as the game went on and created good opportunities.”
With 5:23 to go in the second period, the Blue Wave seized a two-goal edge, courtesy of sophomore forward Bennett McDermott. His shot from the right face-off circle zoomed past Nash inside the left post, making it 2-0. Junior forward Sam Erickson assisted on the tally.
The visitors cut their deficit in half with a power-play goal from junior Chris Cataldo at the 1:38 mark of the second period.
“We were getting a lot of shots, because it was a 5-on-3 (power-play),” Cataldo said. “I shot it low for a tip and it found its way home.”
Nash made 36 saves in goal for Greenwich, which improved its record to 3-4, following an 0-3 start. DeBeradinis stopped 23 shots.
“Defensively, we played well,” Nash said. “There’s always room for improvement, but letting up two goals against an offense like that is a good accomplishment.”
PLAYERS OF THE GAME
Kovalev’s goal in overtime propelled the Cards to victory.
“He’s around the net when it comes to him and he doesn’t need a lot of room to put it in,” Rurak said of Kovalev.
Nash stepped up in goal for the victors.
“This is a learning point for our team,” Gore said. “We just came off a big win on Saturay (5-2 win vs. Notre Dame-West Haven). But all the teams in the FCIAC and state are talented and you have to go out there night in and night out and be the hardest working team on the ice.”
WORKING OVERTIME AGAIN
Monday marked Greenwich’s fourth overtime game already this season through seven matchups. They are 2-2 in overtime, having won their last two games that went to an extra period.
“It’s good for us, because we thrive under pressure and it’s making us better as a team,” Cataldo said. “We have shown that we can perform under pressure, which is a good sign for the playoffs.”