“Keep it simple.”
That was head coach Clark Jones’ message to the Rams boys hockey team after the first period, one that ended with New Canaan trailing Immaculate 1-0.
From that point forward the Rams responded, outscoring the Mustangs 4-1 over the final two periods en route to a 4-2 win Friday night at the Darien Ice House.
“When we play a pretty simple brand of hockey we’re a tough team to play against,” Jones said. “It’s when we complicate things—turning pucks over in the middle of our zone, trying to do stuff that’s a complicated brand of hockey. That’s high school hockey in a nutshell. But it was a good win.”
With the victory, New Canaan improved to 3-1 on the season.
Despite getting the early advantage, Immaculate (0-4) could not keep pace with the Rams’ attack, getting outshot 34-22.
Senior goalie Christopher Graham was outstanding in a losing effort with 29 saves and kept the Mustangs within striking distance until New Canaan junior Boden Gammill’s score put the game away with less than a minute to play.
“Our forwards aren’t putting the puck in the net,” Immaculate head coach Brian Lugo said. “We’re not driving in front of the net, getting those gritty goals. We’re playing too conservative on the outside and we stay on the outside and never get those chances on the inside.”
Despite New Canaan outshooting Immaculate 10-5 in the first period, the Mustangs headed into the intermission with the early advantage. Junior Timothy Hayden took a pass from sophomore Freddy Basli and fired a shot past the glove of freshman New Canaan goalie Beau Johnson for a 1-0 lead with 2:22 remaining in the period.
Johnson and the Rams were able to regain their composure and control of the game very quickly in the second period.
Just 41 seconds in, junior forward Griffin Deane found the back of the net off a feed from Carter Ellis to tie the game up at 1-1.
Less than six minutes later, New Canaan freshman Shane Mettler hit forward Nick Megdanis cutting to the goal. The sophomore faked Graham out of position and lifted a backhand into the net for a 2-1 Ram lead with 8:48 left in the period.
The Rams extended that lead to 3-1 after Ellis rocketed a shot from the circle past Graham with 3:54 remaining in the second.
Meanwhile Johnson was outstanding in goal, consistently turning back the Mustangs. Johnson made 11 saves in the second period alone and bought New Canaan’s offense time to find its rhythm.
“Beau was solid and that’s what kind of got our bench into it,” Jones said. “When the goalie is standing on his head for a while it kind of wakes everybody up. I’ve known Beau since he was eight and he’s always been steady. As a freshman, he’s stepping up big for us.”
The Mustangs kept things interesting, as a New Canaan penalty in the crease set up Immaculate’s Joseph Robinson with a one-on-one opportunity with just 34 seconds left in the period. The senior faked to his backhand, stopped on a dime and flipped the puck inside the right pipe to cut New Canaan’s lead to 3-2.
That was as close as Immaculate would get.
Both goalies showcased their skills in the third period. Graham was particularly strong early on, foiling two New Canaan power plays to keep the Mustangs within a goal until Gammill put a rebound home to ice the game for the Rams.
PLAYER OF THE GAME
Beau Johnson, New Canaan. The freshman goalie played like a seasoned vet, making 20 saves and keeping the Mustangs in check while the Rams took a lead they’d never relinquish in the second period.
“We haven’t played during school break since I’ve been coaching. It’s a totally different feel. Everyone’s kind of off their schedule a bit. But they pushed through it and now we’re 3-and-1 and in a pretty good spot moving forward.”
— New Canaan head coach Clark Jones