DARIEN — What better way for a team to start its season than playing one of its main rivals?
New Canaan and Greenwich did just that Monday night, facing off against each other in their season-opener in a rematch of last season’s FCIAC Tournament quarterfinals. Two first-period goals seemed like it was going to be enough for New Canaan, which held a two-goal lead late in the third period. A two-goal rally by Greenwich forced a tense overtime period, but New Canaan had the final say on this night. Junior Boden Gammill’s goal with 5:44 left in overtime lifted New Canaan to an exciting 3-2 win over Greenwich at Darien Ice House.
Griffin Deane, a junior, assisted on the game-winner, which saw Gammill tally off a rebound in front of the net in a scramble situation.
“The first shift I had in overtime I shot the puck off the goalie’s pads — I had a rebound and it went wide, I was so mad,” Gammill said. “I was glad I scored on my second shift, it was unreal and so exciting. Especially for our first win of the season. Last year, we played Greenwich four times and it’s always a great game against them.”
New Canaan took a 2-0 lead on Greenwich heading into the second period. Junior Left wing Carter Ellis gave the Rams a 1-0 lead 6:47 into the opening period, scoring off an assist from senior forward Justin Wietfeldt.
The Rams extended their lead with 2:14 remaining in the first period. Junior Sam Ives skated around the net, held off a defender and crossed the puck to sophomore Owen Zomb who snapped a one-timer from in front into the net, making it 2-0.
“I feel like everyone on the ice the first five, or six minutes, were just shaking off the nerves, it’s the case every time we start the season,” New Canaan coach Clark Jones said. “I love the pace we played at. We have a lot of speed and skill and a lot of it comes from our back zone. We were able to create a lot of chances and we got two quick goals.”
Down by a pair of goals, Greenwich went on a power-play 40 seconds into the second period.
The Rams killed the power-play, however, maintaining their two-goal advantage. Shortly after the power-play, Rams goalie Beau Johnson made a nifty save off a breakaway, keeping it 2-0 at the 11:15 mark of the second period. Forward Jack Hutchins moved the puck to forward Ivan Kovalev, whose shot was smothered by Johnson in goal with 10:25 to go in the second period.
“Playing Greenwich in my first game ever in high school, was exciting, they’re such a great program,” said Johnson, a freshman. “I was just dialed in and just kept tracking the puck. It was disappointing to let up the tying goal with nine seconds left, but I knew our team was going to rally back.”
Cardinals defenseman Ryan Columbo sent a shot at Johnson from just below the blue line and forward Wes Zolin tested Johnson from the slot, but the Rams’ netminder kept his squad two goals ahead in the second period.
“He was awesome,” Jones said of Johnson. “He’s a freshman and he’s as cool and collected as it gets. He just steps up in big games.”
Wietfeldt found Ellis in front, but GHS goalie Ben Nash made an impressive save off a backhand, keeping the Cardinals in the game in the second period. Shane Mettler and Eric Wills also got the puck to the net late in the second period for New Canaan, which increased its pressure as the period progressed. After the Rams killed off a power-play, the Cardinals closed to within 2-1 on o goal from Hutchins with 4:26 left in the third period. The Cards tied the score at 2-2 when defenseman Chris Cataldo tallied on a one-timer while charging to the net. He was set up by Jake Shreders.
“It was a slow start for sure, first game you are always going to have that,” Nash said. “We found our groove in the third period. We’re unhappy with the outcome, but we played well. It’s a good foundation to start from.”
Said Cardinals coach Chris Rurak: “Overall performance was good, we are still trying to feel each other out and we found out some things. Our character was good coming back from two goals with four minutes left. In the end, there’s a mad scramble and a goal. That’s hockey.”
Greenwich beat New Canaan in last season’s FCIAC quarterfinals, then the Rams returned the favor, defeating Greenwich in overtime in the first round of the CIAC Division I Tournament. The rivals meet again on Feb. 13.
PLAYER OF THE GAME
Gammill’s goal in overtime sent the Rams to victory. Johnson made 30 saves in goal.
“We showed resilience,” Nash said. “We were down 2-0 with five minutes left, so to score two goals shows this team does not give up. This feeling of losing will certainly motivate us.”
Said Jones: “Our pace of play that we can play at should give people a lot of trouble. All three of our goals came from our guys working hard down low.”