GREENWICH — Playing in Greenwich has typically not worked out well for the New Canaan girls ice hockey team.
In fact, despite losing just 18 games over the past four seasons combined, the Rams were 0-3-1 while visiting the Cardinals.
Given that recent track record, New Canaan coach Rich Bulan had plenty to smile about after his Rams scored a 2-0 victory over Greenwich at Hamill Skating Rink on Tuesday.
“We historically do not play well here,” Bulan said. “We lost those two (Winter Classic) outdoor games and then the year before that they snuck up on us and beat us (at Hamill). So I’m happy with this. We were on them a lot and even when we broke down, somebody back-checked, somebody picked up the open player, or the defense stepped up. It was a nice effort.”
The victory was the fourth straight for New Canaan (5-1) since a 2-1 loss to Darien.
The Rams had plenty of opportunities against Greenwich, outshooting the Cards 39-11 and getting goals from senior co-captain Courtney O’Connell in the first period and junior Grace Flatow in the third.
“The past few games, we’ve started to get our mojo back,” junior Grace Crowell, who assisted on O’Connell’s goal, said. “This game was really fun — just a really great game all-around.”
Greenwich, which fell to 3-2, has been struggling to find its stride, but coach Alex Lerchen liked the intensity the Cards showed.
“We obviously played a lot of defense tonight,” Lerchen said. “We gave them a couple of opportunities early and we were kind of scrambling, but from an intensity standpoint, we were hustling and we’ve kind of been missing that from our game for a little bit. We’re happy we matched their intensity and gave them a run tonight.”
Goalie Hannah Goldenberg racked up 37 saves while under fire for much of the game and kept the Cards within striking distance.
“She’s a gamer,” Lerchen said of the senior co-captain. “I’ve said that year after year and now she’s a senior, and she’s a captain. She’s calm and composed and always gives us a chance to pull out a win.”
The Rams scored early when O’Connell scored during a scramble at 3:06 of the opening period.
Despite dominating the shots and chances, New Canaan was shut out for the remainder of the first period and the entirety of the second. For Greenwich, Delaney Roth, Tess Marciano and Emiri Fukichi led the defensive effort in front of Goldenberg.
The Cards missed an opportunity to tie the game when New Canaan was hit with two penalties late in the second period, resulting in an extended power play and a 30-second 5-on-3. Greenwich came up empty.
“During the penalties, it’s nerve-wracking,” Crowell said. “But we did a good job with the penalty kill trying to get it out, dumping it. We did well with that.”
New Canaan’s line of Crowell, O’Connell, and junior Kaleigh Harden generated some prime opportunities, but it was Flatow putting the second goal on the board with an assist from Kelly Benson early in the third.
“This is what we’ve been doing the past three games,” Bulan said. “We were swarming and we were playing the way we can and I was really happy with that. Would I have liked to have seen more goals? Heck yeah, but I’ll take the win.”
Lerchen is hoping Greenwich can build off its performance, despite the loss.
“We knew this group was capable of more and we got out-worked a few games,” Lerchen said. “We knew we’d have to bring our best tonight and the girls did. I give them a lot of credit for competing and doing their best out there.
PLAYER OF THE GAME
Grace Crowell, New Canaan: Crowell was a key part of a New Canaan offense which was on the attack for nearly the entire game. The junior also assisted on the game’s first goal, scored by Courtney O’Connell.
“It’s fun for them. They love the way they’re playing, and they’re excited with how they look. I’m so happy we’re having a season and that they have something to play for. They are not taking anything for granted.” — New Canaan coach Rich Bulan