NORTHFORD — Playing at Yale University’s Ingalls Rink has been one of the Greenwich High School boys hockey team’s season-long goals, but to accomplish such a feat the Cardinals knew they had to advance to the state semifinals.
Sunday, the Cardinals earned an appearance at the venue.
Scoring one goal in each period, second-seeded Greenwich skated to a workmanlike 3-0 win over seventh-seeded Northwest Catholic in the quarterfinal-round of the CIAC Division I Tournament at Northford Ice Pavilion.
The victory catapulted the Cardinals into Wednesday’s Division I semifinals, where they will face third-seeded Xavier at Ingalls. Xavier advanced by topping sixth-seeded Hamden 3-1 in Sunday’s quarterfinals.
“It’s amazing, it’s huge,” said GHS sophomore goalie Ben Nash, who made 18 saves. “Way back in December we were looking to go to the The Whale (Ingalls Rink) and it hasn’t happened in a couple of years, since the senior’s freshman year. So it’s really big for us to get back there. We’re not done yet though, we still have a lot to prove.”
Greenwich’s last trip to Ingalls Rink was the 2014-15 season that saw it make it to the championship game, where they were edged by Darien 1-0.
“Going back there is nice,” Cardinals senior defenseman Oliver Fulton said. “I haven’t been there since freshman year. Hopefully, we will play there twice. Getting there is the goal every year. We have a lot of older guys, so we came in with a lot of confidence today.”
Senior forward Matt Baugher, senior defenseman Connor Santry and freshman forward Thatcher Danielson tallied one goal apiece for Greenwich.
Nash made a pair of saves off shots from Lions freshman forward Connor Melanson early on, then the Cardinals gained momentum as the opening period progressed. Northwest Catholic focused its attention on slowing down Greenwich forwards Alex Mozian and Nikita Kovalev, both of whom have totaled more than 50 points on the season.
Tightly defended, the high-scoring duo were kept off the scoreboard, but the Cards showcased their depth offensively. Receiving the puck in front, Baugher snapped a shot past Lions junior goalie Michael Kaliff, giving Greenwich a 1-0 lead with 7:53 remaining in the first period.
The Cardinals held an 11-7 shots-on-goal advantage in the first period.
“The first period we were a little jittery, a little nervous,” said GHS coach Chris Rurak, whose squad posted a 4-3 overtime win against Northwest Catholic during the regular season. “The second period, we started playing our brand of hockey, which is very effective. We always say puck possession is like defense. If they don’t have the puck, they can’t score.”
The Lions sustained a key loss early in the opening period, as Melanson suffered a shoulder injury after crashing into the boards.
“That was kind of deflating for us, it was a momentum-breaker,” Northwest Catholic coach Don Melanson said. “The first period, we had some scoring opportunities. I told the team after the game, ‘remember this feeling, remember this day. Think about what you could have done on that one shift to prevent this from happening.”
PUTTING IT TOGETHER
After killing a Northwest Catholic power play, Greenwich extended its lead 1:39 into the second period. Junior forward Matt Davey’s shot from the right wing deflected off Kaliff’s pads and found the stick of senior defenseman Connor Santry, who tapped in the rebound, making it 2-0.
Meanwhile, the Cards began getting relentless with the pressure, with Baugher, Mozian, senior JT Lawrence Kovalev and Davey making it difficult for the Lions to clear the puck out of their zone.
“We noticed they were a little bit smaller and we picked up the hitting a little,” Rurak said. “The way the forecheck works, is if you trap them and isolate guys and support the puck, you will force turnovers.”
Greenwich outshot Northwest Catholic, 15-7 during the second period. When the Lions did enter the Cards’ zone, Fulton, Nic Pelletier-Martinelli, Ryan Columbo and Santry combined to thwart each scoring threat.
“It was a great game for all the ‘D’ men,” Nash said. “They all helped me, I couldn’t have done it without them.”
The Lions had hopes of erasing Greenwich’s two-goal lead, but then fell into a 3-0 hole with 4:45 remaining in the final period. Set up by Mozian, Danelson scored from close in, putting the Cards on top, 3-0.
“We gave up a bunch of odd-man rushes that we shouldn’t have given up and that’s how they found the back of the net,” Melanson said. “They did a great job.”
With so much at stake and the clock winding down, the game became a bit chippy during the final minutes. Northwest Catholic senior Paul Arel and Lawrence each received a five-minute major penalty, plus a game misconduct penalty for fighting after they became tangled up and briefly sparred.
“No matter who we play in the semifinals, it’s going to be a tough opponent,” Baugher said. “We have to play a full game, play up to our potential and get it done.”
GREENWICH 3, NORTHWEST CATHOLIC 0
NORTHWEST CATHOLIC 0 0 0 — 0
GREENWICH 1 1 1 — 3
Goals: G — Matt Baugher, Connor Santry, Thatcher Danielson; Assists: G — Matt Davey, Alex Mozian; Goalies: NC — Michael Kaliff (37 saves); G — Ben Nash (18 saves).
Records: Greenwich 21-3; Northwest Catholic 14-9-1