Even the best teams need to change things up every once in a while.
A switch on the forward lines helped lead to three goals in the second period as the New Canaan Rams’ girls ice hockey team topped the Ridgefield/Danbury co-op, 4-1, Monday night at the Darien Ice House.
Sophomores Courtney O’Connell and Anika Curri each had a goal and an assist for the Rams, while freshmen Grace Crowell and Angelica Megdanis had a goal apiece.
New Canaan overcame another fine performance by Ridgefield’s junior goalie Kendal Mountain, who racked up 39 saves against a strong offense.
“It definitely took a little bit, but it was important for us to keep getting shots on net, crash the net and get those rebounds,” O’Connell said. “As a team, we’re really good at that, and we were able to dump it in and get shots because you never know what can happen. She was a really good goalie, so props to her.”
New Canaan improved to 12-1-1 overall and 9-1-1 in the FCIAC, as it starts to hone in on the No. 1 seed for the FCIAC tournament with three league games to play. The Rams are unbeaten in their last eight games (7-0-1) and their playoff destiny is in their hands.
“How else would you rather have it?” New Canaan head coach Rich Bulan said. “We’re good enough to answer the call, we just have to go play hockey.”
Ridgefield dropped to 7-8-1 overall and 5-5-1 in the FCIAC, and its hunt for a conference playoff berth will likely go down to the wire.
Mountain was again the big story for the Tigers, as she and sophomores Ali Caiola, Julia Zangre and Bridget Galloway, along with juniors Chiara Signorelli, helped bottle up New Canaan’s attack for a good portion of the game.
“Overall, I’m satisfied,” Ridgefield head coach Lauren Lubrano said. “We worked really hard all game, it’s just they were able to capitalize on the mistakes that we did make. That’s the thing about playing a good team like New Canaan: When you do make mistakes, they’ll capitalize.”
New Canaan outshot Ridgefield 14-4 in the first period, but had just a 1-0 lead to show for it.
That one goal came when O’Connell popped in a rebound after a shot by junior Quincy Connell at 6:02.
“It was rebound and I went high,” O”Connell said. “They had a very strong goalie but we were pounding the net and kept working and it went in.”
The Rams missed a golden opportunity to score again in the final minute of the first period when Mountain made two great saves against New Canaan freshmen Caitlin Tully and Kaleigh Harden.
New Canaan then changed up the lines for the second period.
“We threw a bunch of combinations out there and that made a difference,” Bulan said. “We put Grace with Quincy and Courtney, and she added an extra spark to that line, and Anika then moved to play with Angelica and Kaleigh, who she’s played with before. We found some combos.”
The moves paid off immediately as New Canaan scored twice in the first six minutes of the second frame to go up, 3-0.
Crowell scored at 4:26 when she put in a rebound high after a shot by O’Connell. Freshman Maddie Kloud also assisted.
At the six-minute mark, Megdanis scored, again off a rebound and again high, with assists from Curri and Harden.
“We started putting the puck up,” Bulan said. “(Mountain is) very good and she made a lot of good saves low, but once we got it up in the air, we were able to score. Defensively, they clogged the middle well and made us earn everything we got.”
Curri scored an unassisted goal late in the second period, when she swooped in front of Mountain and slipped a back-hander inside the pipe.
Ridgefield broke the shutout when Zangre scored off the opening faceoff to make it 4-1.
The Tigers were flying to start the third period, but New Canaan goalie Kara Fahey (9 saves) and the defense, led by senior co-captains Jess Eccleston and Katelyn Sparks, sophomores McKenna Harden and Sadie Frame, and junior Sophie Potter, held off the pressure.
New Canaan, which played 53 minutes of a 1-1 tie against rival Darien just two days earlier, managed to come back on short rest to get a win.
“The approach was just to get back out there and keep the energy high,” O’Connell said. “That game against Darien was tough, but we came back and worked well as a team tonight.
PLAYER OF THE GAME
Courtney O’Connell, New Canaan. O’Connell broke the scoring ice with the Rams’ first goal, and assisted on linemate Grace Crowell’s goal which put New Canaan ahead 20 minutes in.
“Just don’t stop working. We have a saying: Whether you’re a lion or a gazelle, you better start running. We just have to make sure we’re working hard every single game and we won’t be outworked. That’s always how we want to leave it, making sure we gave it our all every single shift.” — Ridgefield/Danbury head coach Lauren Lubrano said.
NEW CANAAN 4, RIDGEFIELD/DANBURY 1
Ridgefield 0 0 1 – 1
New Canaan 1 3 0 – 4
First Period: NC – Courtney O’Connell (Quincy Connell) 6:02; Second Period: NC – Grace Crowell (O’Connell, Maddie Kloud) 4:26; NC – Angelica Megdanis (Anika Curri, Kaleigh Harden) 6:00; NC – Anika Curri 13:27; Third Period: R/D – Julia Zangre 0:21
Goalies — R/D – Kendal Mountain 39 saves; NC – Kara Fahey 9 saves Shots: R/D 13; NC 43
Records: Ridgefield/Danbury (7-8-1 overall, 5-5-1 FCIAC); New Canaan (12-1-1, 9-1-1)