DARIEN — It took seven years to get the seventh.
The New Canaan Rams scored once in each period and held off the Greenwich Cardinals, 3-1, to win their first FCIAC girls ice hockey championship since 2012 Saturday at the Darien Ice House.
For the top-seeded Rams (19-1-2), who were making their 12th appearance in the conference finals and had won six previous titles, it was a long time coming.
“It’s a great feeling watching that game,” New Canaan head coach Rich Bulan said. “These girls worked hard from the get-go — training camp, everything. It’s so great to have the depth that we have — the third line had another goal today. Being able to go five defensemen and three lines and have the goaltending we have is just a great combination.”
The result ended Greenwich’s two-year reign as FCIAC champs, after they had beaten New Canaan 2-1 in last season’s final. The second-seeded Cardinals (14-6-0) are the only team to have beaten the Rams this season, but dropped the last two meetings.
“We played a hard game,” Greenwich head coach Alex Lerchen said. “They wanted it more and they took it to us. Now we have to put it behind us and focus on states.”
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As has been a trend all season, the Rams received great offensive games from its underclassmen. Sophomore Anika Curri opened the scoring, freshman Grace Crowell scored in the second period, and the goal that iced the game was a freshman combo, as Caitlin Tully set up Maddie Kloud with 10:03 remaining.
Greenwich’s goal was scored by junior Emma Wingrove in the second period and cut the deficit to 2-1 at the time.
The Cards hung tough throughout, but were outshot by New Canaan 35-11. Sophomore goalie Hannah Goldenberg had a solid game with 32 saves.
New Canaan senior Jess Eccleston, a four-year starter on defense, was named the game’s MVP. She was part of a remarkable defensive effort which featured senior co-captain Katelyn Sparks, sophomores McKenna Harden and Sadie Frame, junior Sophie Potter and sophomore goalie Blythe Novick, who collected 10 saves.
“This is just so amazing, especially with this team,” Eccleston said. “We were really confident going in and every single person on this team stepped up for this game.”
New Canaan came out of the gates flying, outshooting the Cardinals 13-3 in the first period.
Curri scored the opening goal when she redirected a shot by freshman Kaleigh Harden from the point just 1:41 after the opening drop.
The Rams boosted that lead to 2-0 during a scrum in front of the Cardinals’ net at 1:18 of the second period. The puck ended up at the feet of Crowell, who spun and back-handed it past Goldenberg.
Play heated up after that, culminating in matching roughing penalties for senior co-captains Jen Kelly of Greenwich and Eccleston of New Canaan.
Greenwich, which had just three shots in the first period, turned up the energy in the second stanza and eventually cut the deficit in half at 2-1.
Wingrove scored the Cardinals’ goal on a tough angle. Her shot from the left circle went top shelf over the shoulder of Novick, and was similar to freshman Tess Marciano’s game-winner in overtime against Darien in the semifinals.
The third period started with a couple of great saves, as Novick blocked a high shot from Kelly, and then Goldenberg stopped a shot to the five-hole by New Canaan freshman Angelica Megdanis.
With just over 10 minutes to play, Tully had the puck behind the net and centered it to Kloud, who scored to give the Rams some cushion.
PLAYER OF THE GAME
Jess Eccleston, New Canaan. Eccleston was everywhere in the final and led a defensive effort which limited Greenwich to just 11 shots. She was named the MVP of the championship game.
“I’m very proud of them. The seniors really wanted to go out with another date on that banner and start everything over again. Hopefully, this is the beginning. We’re not done. We still have states so we’ve got to work hard again.” — New Canaan head coach Rich Bulan
NEW CANAAN 3, GREENWICH 1
GREENWICH 0 1 0 — 1
NEW CANAAN 1 1 1 — 3
1st period: NC — Anika Curri (Kaleigh Harden) 1:41; 2nd period: NC — Grace Crowell (Quincy Connell) 1:18; G – Emma Wingrove 9:15; 3rd period: NC — Maddie Kloud (Caitlin Tully) 4:57
Saves: G — Hannah Goldenberg 32; NC — Blythe Novick 10
Shots: G — 11; NC — 35