GREENWICH — Losing to rival New Canaan on Saturday prevented Greenwich from winning its third consecutive FCIAC girls hockey championship, but the Cardinals’ season certainly wasn’t over.
Greenwich was back in the rink shortly after its defeat in the FCIAC finals to prepare to challenge for a title it’s had its sights set on for quite some time — the state championship.
The Cardinals’ surely resembled a team on a mission in the opening round of the state tournament on Wednesday night.
Scoring three goals during the first 7 minutes, 3 seconds of play, sixth-seeded Greenwich skated to a 5-2 victory over 11th-seeded Notre Dame-Fairfield in the first round of the CHSGHA Tournament at Dorothy Hamill Skating Rink.
Senior forward Paige Finneran tallied twice, senior forward Grace Fahey had one goal and two assists and Hayley Duffy (senior defender) registered two assists to pace the Cardinals (16-6).
The win advanced GHS to Saturday’s 7 p.m.
GHSGHA Tournament quarterfinals, where it will face familiar foe Darien. Saturday will mark the fourth meeting of the season between the Blue Wave and Cardinals. Darien won the two regular season matchups, but Greenwich notched a dramatic 4-3 overtime triumph in last week’s FCIAC Tournament semifinals.
Host Greenwich wasted little time in setting the tone of Wednesday’s game against Notre Dame-Fairfield, which is a combined team with Foran, Jonathan Law and Pomperaug.
“I think after last week’s loss to New Canaan, we were really focused and we wanted to come out here and make a statement to all the other teams,” said Fahey, one of the Cards’ four captains. “We just got really focused before the game, came out hard and had some fun with it.”
Greenwich (16-6) held a 3-0 lead on Notre Dame-Fairfield following the first period, then took a 3-1 advantage into the third period.
“We played a smart hockey game,” GHS coach Alex Lerchen said. “Notre Dame-Fairfield is a strong team and they’re well-coached. When we got those three quick ones, credit to Notre Dame they picked it up in the second period and made it difficult. I think our experience in the postseason showed through today.”
Sophomore goalie Hannah Goldenberg made 25 saves for Greenwich. Bethany Karp, a sophomore, stopped 30 shots for the Notre Dame-Fairfield co-op squad.
“This was the first time we’ve ever made the state tournament,” Notre Dame-Fairfield coach Kerri Rowland said. “I told the team they couldn’t lose tonight, because we are here.”
Freshman forward Lexi Danielson opened the scoring for GHS, tallying off a rebound with 11:52 remaining in the first period. Duffy, a captain, put the initial shot on net from the right wing and Danielson, positioned at the left post, knocked the loose puck past Karp.
At the 10:20 mark of the first period, Fahey converted a shot from the right face-off circle, giving the Cards a 2-0 edge. Duffy again set up the tally.
Sophomore forward Delaney Roth’s goal with 7:20 still to play in the opening period, put the visitors in a quick 3-0 hole. Senior captain Jennifer Kelly assisted on the Cardinals’ third goal.
“We know that we’re in the state tournament and a loss will end our season, so we came out hard,” Roth said. “We don’t want our season to end. The loss in the FCIAC finals stung, so we are working really hard to keep our season alive.”
After Karp made six saves in the first period, she notched 13 in the second, enabling her squad to get back into the game. Freshman forward Ashley Wright’s goal with 7:42 left in the second period trimmed Greenwich’s lead to 3-1. The visitors had a bit of momentum in the second period, but were unable to get another shot by Goldenberg.
“I was very proud of how the team responded,” Rowland said. “That was a horrible way to start, everybody knew it and I told them you can’t turn back time, you have to go forward. We knew we could play better than that and they kept moving their feet and never gave up, which makes me very proud.”
Finneran tallied off a Fahey assist with 3:57 to go in the third period, then added another goal exactly a minute later. Sophomore Justina Holland had the visitor’s second tally.
“We came out with those three goals and that helped us set the momentum,” said Finneran, also a captain. “Last year, we got a first-round bye and lost in the quarters, so we’re happy to be back hopefully, we can get to the semis and then to the state championship.”
PLAYERS OF THE GAME
Finneran, Fahey and Roth sparked the offense, while Goldenberg was stellar in goal. Greenwich’s four defenders Sydney Orszulak, Katie Piotrzkowski, Tess Marciano and Duffy were once again, effective throughout.
ON TO DARIEN AGAIN
Darien Ice Palace is familiar territory for Greenwich — especially when it comes to playing Darien. Saturday will be the Cards’ third game against Darien at the Ice Palace. Their second game was the 4-3 overtime triumph in the FCIAC semifinals.
“We’ve played them three times already and every time it’s been a close match,” Fahey said. “We’re really excited and both teams are a little nervous, but I think it’s going to be a really exciting game.”
Said Roth: “The key against Darien is to play as we did in the semis. We kept the pressure on and we kept them on their heels. We are definitely working hard for that white (championship banner).”
“Last game against Darien we showed our heart and who we are, so I’m really excited to get back there and hopefully, come out with another win,” Finneran said.
GREENWICH 5, NOTRE DAME-FAIRFIELD 2
NOTRE DAME-FAIRFIELD 0 1 1 — 2
GREENWICH 3 0 2 — 5
Goals: ND — Ashley Wright, Justina Holland; G — Paige Finneran 2, Grace Fahey, Delaney Roth, Lexi Danielson; Assists: ND — Ashley Regina, Desiree Sleath, Madison David; G — Hayley Duffy 2, Fahey 2, Jennifer Kelly, Roth; Goalies: Bethany Karp (30 saves); G — Hannah Goldenberg (25 saves).