Sydney Orszulak, Katie Piotrzkowski, Emma Wingrove and Jessica Marzullo were freshmen when the Greenwich High School girls ice hockey team won its first FCIAC championship in the 2016-2017 season.
Now the four senior captains are hoping to end their Cardinals careers the way they began it — with a title, or two.
“Winning FCIACs and states are obvious goals,” Marzullo said. “We were the first class to win an FCIAC championship and now as seniors we would like to end on a high note. Having the loss last year provides the fire under us that really wants to win the title again.”
The loss Marzullo mentioned is the Cardinals’ 3-1 defeat to New Canaan in the championship game of the FCIAC Tournament. Greenwich was also defeated by Darien, 2-1, in the quarterfinal-round of last season’s state tournament.
Returning most of its roster from a squad that’s made three straight appearances in the FCIAC final, Greenwich has plenty of reason to enter its 2019-2020 campaign with plenty of optimism.
“We have a lot of energy on and off the ice,” Orszulak said. “We started off well at a jamboree we played in against New Canaan and Darien, tying both teams. I think it’s going to be a great season.”
Greenwich registered a record of 16-7 last winter under coach Alex Lerchen’s guidance.
“We had a strong season, we didn’t finish as well as we wanted to, but we have FCIACs and states in mind this year,” Orszulak said. “We have so much potential and we want to get there this year.”
Orszulak is one of the Cards’ top defenders, along with fellow captain Piotrzkowski.
“It is going to be pretty even in the FCIAC and states this season, there are so many good teams,” Piotrzkowksi said. “We have a lot of players on our team this year, so everyone is competing for their spots. It’s important for us to be positive with each other and have good team chemistry. That’s what we’re working really hard toward this year.”
While Orszulak and Piotrzkowski will be called upon to help lead the Cardinals defensively, Marzullo and Wingrove should be key players offensively.
“We lost a lot of forwards from last year, the last class had three centers,” said Wingrove, who will center one of the Cardinals’ top lines. “We also have a lot of strong forwards this year who will be scoring goals. The younger kids on our team are really good and we have gotten to know them really well. They are comfortable as freshmen on the team.”
Indeed, the four captains, enjoy their new role.
“It’s a very exciting honor to represent the team,” Wingrove said. “Hockey has been a key sport of my life, so it’s great to get the chance represent a bunch of girls who work so hard.”
Said Marzullo: “It’s a new experience for all us. We have a really good, listening group of underclassmen, so we are excited to lead us to victory, hopefully.”
AT THE HELM: Lerchen is starting his sixth season as coach of the Cardinals. He led Greenwich to the FCIAC title in the 2016-17 and the 2017-18 seasons — the program’s first two championships. Greenwich also advanced to the FCIAC finals last winter, losing to New Canaan, 3-1. The Cards made it to the tournament finals by defeating Darien, 4-3, in the semifinals in a memorable overtime game.
Trailing 3-1 in the final two minutes, the Cardinals scored two straight goals to force overtime, then saw Tess Marciano tally the winner in the extra period.
At last season’s state tournament, Greenwich beat Notre Dame-Fairfield 5-2 in the opening round, then was edged by rival Darien, 2-1, in the quarterfinals.
Mike Erensen returns for his ninth season as an assistant coach.
WHO’S GONE?: Graduation claimed All-FCIAC First Team selections Jennifer Kelly and Paige Finneran. Kelly registered more than 100 points in her career. Her two goals in the final two minutes of Greenwich’s game against Darien in the FCIAC semifinals last season knotted the score at 3-3. She is playing lacrosse at Union College.
Finneran is playing lacrosse at Vanderbilt University. Grace Fahey, a forward, is competing on the lacrosse team at Davidson and Hayley Duffy is playing club hockey at Boston College.
“They were phenomenal for us,” Lerchen said. “To have multiple-sport athletes, who know what it takes to compete day-in and day-out, was huge for us.”
WHO’S BACK?: Wingrove returns at forward, where she will center, what should be, a high-scoring line. Sophomore Lexi Danielson, who also scored a number of clutch goals last year, is back up front, along with junior Emiri Fukuchi, Marzullo, sophomore Lily Bates, senior Anna Keaveney and junior Riley Geary.
On defense, Piotrzkowski, Orszulak, Marciano, a sophomore, and junior Delaney Roth form what should be, a strong unit. Roth has moved to the blue line, after playing up front the past several seasons.
Jessica Ware, a senior who played hockey at Canterbury School last year, after starting her career at GHS, returns to the team this season. She is one of the Cardinals’ goalies. Also back in goal, a position she flourished in last season, is junior Hannah Goldenberg.
Piotrzkowski was a First Team All-FCIAC selection last season and Orszulak earned Second Team All-FCIAC honors.
NEWCOMERS: Freshmen Caroline Lawrence (forward), Peyton Jelinek (forward), Sophie Roth (forward), Kelsey Roth (forward) and Elizabeth Anderson (forward) each start their first season on the squad, where they should provide depth.
STRENGTHS: “We will definitely be strong defensively, as long as we stick to our game plan,” Lerchen said. “Both of our goalies are very strong. We are going to have to win a lot of close games, since the goaltending in the state is also stellar, especially among the top teams.”
QUOTABLE: “Our team has a lot of potential,” Piotrzkowski said. “We definitely have to look out for teams like Darien, New Canaan and Ridgefield — there are a lot of strong teams we’ll have to contend with.”
Said Wingrove: “I feel like I’ve been on the team for some very important moments in the team’s history and I want to leave by experiencing another important moment this year.”