When FCIAC girls hockey rivals Greenwich and Ridgefield/Danbury met last month, the Cardinals were edged by a goal. Thursday, Greenwich left nothing to chance.
Determined to even the score against Ridgefield/Danbury and continue its postseason push, Greenwich scored five goals over the first two periods and cruised to a decisive 8-2 Senior Night victory at Dorothy Hamill Skating Rink.
With their fourth consecutive win, the Cardinals raised their record to 10-4 overall and 7-3 in the FCIAC with 14 points. The Cardinals, who lost to Ridgefield/Danbury, 2-1, on Jan. 5, are currently in third place in the FCIAC, which sends four teams to the conference tournament. Ridgefield/Danbury (5-6-1, 7-9-1) is in fifth place in the FCIAC with 11 points.
Prior to the game, Greenwich’s seven seniors — Hayley Duffy, Grace Fahey, Paige Finneran, Jennifer Kelly, Nicole Huber, Lucy Fulton and Katie Walko — were honored with a special ceremony. Once the game began, it was all business for the Cardinals.
“I was hoping, despite all the distractions, that our mission was to win the hockey game,” GHS coach Alex Lerchen said. “It was good to see the girls enjoy a nice evening and then do what needed to be done when the game started.”
Kelly certainly celebrated Senior Night in style. A forward, Kelly recorded a game-high four goals, putting her over the 100-career point plateau.
“This team had beaten us early in the season, so we wanted to do everything we could do to come out with a win,” said Kelly, who has 104 career points. “To come out here on Senior Night and win was pretty special, especially with the teammates I’ve played with for four years.”
Greenwich held a 3-1 lead following the first period, then took a 5-1 advantage into the third period. Junior defender Sydney Orszulak tallied twice, while Fahey and sophomore Emiri Fukuchi added one goal apiece for the victors.
Kelly scored her first goal at the 10:34 mark of the opening period. Ridgefield/Danbury knotted the score at 1-1 on sophomore Julia Zangre’s tally with 7:01 to go in the first period, but GHS took the lead for good a 2-1 when Fahey converted a shot with 4:22 remaining in the opening stanza. Fukuchi’s goal sealed Greenwich’s first period scoring, making it 3-1.
“I thought it was a good start for our team,” Lerchen said. “We seemed to have a pretty good jump to our game from the first shift. The forwards were really buzzing tonight and the ‘D” did a good job of moving the puck. Without question, they were pretty fired up about last time we played them.”
Kelly notched a pair of second-period goals and had one in the third, while Orszualk scored in the final period. Fulton, sophomore Delaney Roth, freshman Lexi Danielson, Walko and freshman Tess Marciano had one assist apiece for GHS.
“When Jen is on her game, she is the toughest forward in the state to deal with,” Lerchen said. “Sydney had a really strong game as well. Her shot is pretty much second to none in the FCIAC.”
Sophomore forward Julia Bongo registered a third-period goal for Ridgefield/Danbury, which tested Cardinals sophomore goalie Hannah Goldenberg numerous times.
“I think our defense play great,” Duffy said. “We are getting better defensively and becoming more confident. Senior Night’s always one of the best nights of the year, because all of the underclassmen celebrate you. It feels even better when you win, so this is a great victory.”
Indeed, two-time defending FCIAC champion Greenwich seems to be peaking heading into Monday’s road matchup against Simsbury.
“Our past four games, we have been playing fast and moving the puck well,” Finneran said. “All aspects of our game have been clicking. We can compete with anybody and when we are playing at our full potential, we feel we are unstoppable.”
Finneran said the team took the ice with plenty of focus and desire.
“We lost to them before and that was a tough game for us,” Finneran said. “Getting focused beforehand was important and getting ready to work, because this was a must-win game.”
Like her fellow captains Duffy, Kelly and Finneran, Fahey has been a part of two FCIAC title-winning squads.
“Our freshman year, the program was just getting good, then we just kept building on to the team,” Fahey said. We ended up with such a strong foundation. It’s been amazing to help build this team to be the program that it is today.”
Said Kelly: “When we look back on our high school careers, we will remember putting the banner on the wall with our championship. We are cherishing these last moments on the ice and we’ll try to take it as far as we can go.”
The Cardinals still have five more regular-season games remaining before the postseason begins.
“We are definitely looking to win our third straight FCIAC title,” Fahey said. “It’s going to be more difficult this year, because New Canaan and Darien are stronger than ever, so we defintitely need to come out strong and focused.”