RIDGEFIELD — Sweet passes, sprawling saves, big hits … the first game of a home-and-home series between the Ridgefield and Darien boys hockey teams had something of everything.
Even a game-winning goal in overtime.
Will Forrest scored just 25 seconds into the eight-minute extra session to give Ridgefield a 3-2 victory on Friday evening at the Winter Garden Ice Arena. Forrest collected a loose puck in the slot and beat Darien goalie Henri Pfeifle with a backhand into the top of the net.
“All the credit to my linemates,” Forrest said, referring to fellow seniors Nick Cullinan and Matt Walker. “They forced a turnover and I was able to capitalize.”
Forrest’s goal kept Ridgefield — the No. 1 team in the GameTimeCT poll — unbeaten (8-0) this season. Darien, meanwhile, is now 4-3 overall going into tomorrow’s rematch at the Darien Ice Rink (5 p.m.).
“It was a helluva high school game,” Darien coach Mac Budd said afterwards. “The level of play was very, very high. For our guys, that’s as well as we’ve played. I thought we did a good job in a lot of different areas and so did they.”
“That was a great high school hockey game,” Ridgefield coach Shaun Gallagher said. “A lot of credit to Darien … they played well. It could have gone either way.”
The Tigers controlled the scoreless opening period but were unable to beat Pfeifle, who had 15 of his 33 saves in the first 15 minutes. Pfeifle made pad saves on shots from Cullinan and Simon van Wees during one Ridgefield power play and then denied Cullinan with a glove save on the Tigers’ second man-advantage.
Darien took a 1-0 lead with 8:25 left in the second period by scoring on a 5-on-3 power play. Defenseman James Gregory blasted a shot from the point that teammate Patrick Conway deflected past Ridgefield goalie Sean Gordon (19 saves).
Ridgefield then tied the game during its own 5-on-3 advantage later in the period. Cullinan took a pass from Kees van Wees to the right of the Darien goal and blasted in a one-timer with 2:02 remaining.
Cullinan added his second goal just 22 seconds into the third period, rocketing a slap shot past Pfeifle for a 2-1 Ridgefield lead.
Darien got the equalizer with 7:35 left in regulation, as Bennett McDermott scored from in front off a nice pass from Blake Swiggett behind the net.
The game’s tastiest passing sequence nearly put Ridgefield back in front with 2:45 to go in the third period. Off a transition rush, Walker made a drop pass to Cullinan, who quickly fed Simon van Wees cutting into the slot. Van Wees then uncorked a high shot that Pfeifle was able to reject, keeping the score tied. Pfeifle also did well to deny Walker with 47.1 seconds left, sending the game to overtime.
PLAYER OF THE GAME
Nick Cullinan, Ridgefield. The senior forward scored two of his team’s three goals and was a threat whenever he touched the puck.
“That’s a high-intensity high school hockey game. So now we’ll see what we have coming back tomorrow. It’s certainly a lot of fun … it’s an idea that he (Ridgefield coach Shaun Gallagher) suggested during the summer and I thought it sounded like a great idea. We kind of had a chuckle out there afterwards and said boy, you know, that’s going to be hard to come back and do again.” — Darien head coach Mac Budd, talking about the back-to-back games with Ridgefield.
RIDGEFIELD 3, DARIEN 2 (OT)
DARIEN 0 1 1 0 — 2
RIDGEFIELD 0 1 1 1 — 3
SCORING: First Period: None. Second Period: D — Patrick Conway (James Gregory, Hudson Pokorny), 6:35; R — Nick Cullinan (Kees van Wees), 12:58. Third Period: R — Cullinan (unassisted), :22; D – Bennett McDermott (Blake Swiggett), 7:25.Overtime: R — Will Forrest (unassisted), :25.