After suffering a heartbreaking 3-2 overtime loss against Northwest Catholic on Saturday, the New Canaan boys ice hockey team was in need of a little morale boost.
The Rams found it in the form of a 4-0 shutout win over the St. Joseph Cadets Monday night at the Darien Ice House.
New Canaan scored once in each of the first two periods, including a short-handed goal from senior forward Campbell Lewis, and added two goals in the last period.
“It was definitely great,” Lewis said. “Our morale was definitely low after the last game, and we knew we had to come out and put up a few goals to win this game. Everyone’s happy right now.”
“We’re focusing right now on the details or how we can generate more offense from our own zone,” New Canaan head coach Clark Jones said. “We’re getting clean outs and we’re attacking the neutral zone with speed. There were times we saw that tonight. And our kids played hard.”
The game was the first official FCIAC contest for both teams, as the league schedule is getting underway this week. New Canaan is now 4-4 overall, while St. Joe’s dropped to 0-8.
“Our goaltending has been very solid and we’re working on our morale,” Cadets head coach Eddy LeMaire said. “We’ve got to work on situational play. Our passing is not good, so we’ve got to be better at that. We’ve got to keep the morale at a high level because we’ve got a tough schedule this year.”
It was the second meeting of the season between the two teams, as the Rams won an 8-0 game against the Cadets two weeks ago.
As was the case in the first game, New Canaan generated a plethora of shots on Monday, but thanks to the solid play of St. Joseph’s senior goalie Will Brady (38 saves), the scoring total was cut in half.
“Their goalie is very good,” Lewis said. “He blocked a lot of shots and we had a lot of opportunities, but he put on a heck of a show. We had fewer goals (than the first game) but we worked hard and got the win.”
The Rams had a big showing from senior co-captain Gunnar Granito, who bookended the game with the first and last goals. He also set up sophomore Griffin Deane for a third-period goal.
On defense, New Canaan’s senior goalie Dylan Shane made 20 saves for the shutout, and the Rams skated six defensemen: Senior co-captains Shane Pickering, Walker Ker and Turner Ives, along with juniors Bennett Ong, Justin Wietfeldt and Eric Wills.
“From a defensive standpoint, we played well,” Jones said. “We’ve been working on managing risk, which killed us in the last game (against Northwest Catholic) and has hurt us a few times this year. You have to make sure the risk-reward is in your favor if you’re going to take a chance. They did a good job of that tonight.”
The Cadets were dealing with a short roster, as three players — two captains and starting defenseman — were sidelined with injuries from Saturday’s 5-1 loss against Watertown/Pomperaug.
St. Joe’s had fine play from some younger players, including junior James McLaughlin, sophomore AJ Gerace and freshman Trevor Kellogg on defense.
“A lot of young kids stepped up, filled in holes and did a great job,” LeMaire said. “That says a lot for our JV program and the young talent coming up.”
New Canaan outshot St. Joseph 18-8 in the opening stanza, but the Rams came away with just one goal thanks to the play of Brady in the net.
Granito scored that goal unassisted when he won a faceoff in the right circle, stepped forward and wristed the puck just under the crossbar with 3:42 on the clock.
New Canaan then had penalty problems with two late in the first period and three in the second, but Shane and the defense kept the Cadets off the scoreboard.
The Rams actually doubled their advantage while on the penalty kill, as the persistent Lewis took advantage of a loose puck and a rare miscue by Brady to score a shorty 28 seconds into the second period.
“I was exhausted,” Lewis said. “Our defense just fired it down the ice and I used every last bit of energy I had. The goalie just whiffed on it and it popped in front of the net, so I just banged it in.”
“Our kids worked hard,” Jones said. “Campbell Lewis stood out as far as his work ethic goes and he scored that short-handed goal. We need that consistently from everyone every game.”
Brady, meanwhile, bounced back and shut out New Canaan for the remainder of the period.
“What I liked was his recovery,” LeMaire said. “He had that one hiccup and then he stopped another 10 shots in a row.”
The Rams made it 3-0 midway through the third period when Granito slipped a pass in front to Deane, who one-timed the puck into the net. Granito’s empty-netter with 22 seconds remaining was the final goal.
“We haven’t scored first a whole lot, so from a game management standpoint that’s big.” Jones said. “We did score the first goal against Northwest Catholic and them immediately gave up another. After we scored first tonight, we worked on managing the game and even though we didn’t put the puck in the net and we had a ton of chances, they managed the game well.”
PLAYER OF THE GAME
Gunnar Granito, New Canaan. The Rams’ senior co-captain had a hand in three of the team’s four goals, starting the scoring with an unassisted tally in the first period. He also assisted on New Canaan’s third goal before ending the game with an empty-net goal.
“Going into it, we knew we were the better team so we tried to stick to the basics. We’ve been working on speaking because on the ice, it’s been very quiet. So we worked on speaking, cycling the puck, and doing the simple things, which is what helped us win. Communication was key.” — New Canaan senior forward Campbell Lewis
New Canaan 4, St. Joseph 0
St. Joseph 0 0 0 – 0
New Canaan 1 1 2 4
First Period: NC – Gunnar Granito, 11:18
Second Period: NC – Campbell Lewis (Gavin Reid), short-handed, 0:28
Third Period: NC – Griffin Deane (Granito, Boden Gammill), 7:58; NC – Gunnar Granito, empty net, 14:38
Goalies: SJ – Will Brady 36 saves; NC – Dylan Shane 18 saves
Shots: SJ 18; NC 40