STAMFORD — It is an exciting time for the Ridgefield-Danbury girls ice hockey program.
Although there is just one senior on the roster, Ridgefield-Danbury improved its overall record to 7-7-1 Saturday by posting a 6-1 road triumph over Stamford-Westhill-Staples at Terry Conners rink.
The Tigers are now 5-4-1 in the FCIAC and entered the contest ranked No. 13 in the state.
“We had a bit of a slow start to begin the season. We have worked ourselves into a good position now,” said Ridgefield-Danbury coach Lauren Lubrano. “We can own the rest of the year. We have opportunities all in front of us. Consistency is what I want to see. It’s up to the players.”
On Saturday, the Tigers took care of business. They jumped out to a 3-0 edge just 4:56 into the contest and a 4-0 lead 8:37 in.
The early cushion allowed Ridgefield-Danbury to employ most of their two freshmen-, nine sophomore-, six junior-roster over the last two periods.
Junior goalie Kendal Mountain (five saves) was in net for the first period. Junior goalie Reagan Bonadies (18 saves) played the final two periods.
“The work ethic of the entire group has been a key factor. If the puck doesn’t bounce our way, the work ethic keeps us in every game,” Coach Lubrano said. “You can never have enough depth or experience. Hard work in practice deserves a taste of game time on the ice.”
Sophomores Emily Stefanelli and Julia Bongo — both members of the No. 1 forward line — each had two goals Saturday. Lone senior Natalie Preveza and sophomore Julia Zangre also tallied for the Tigers.
STEADY CLIMB TO SUCCESS
All the hours that coach Lubrano and her staff have put into the Ridgefield-Danbury program are coming to fruition.
Two seasons ago, the Tigers took their lumps (5-15, 5-9 league) in the tough FCIAC.
Last year, Ridgefield-Danbury finished 8-11-1 overall, 7-7 in league and qualified for the fourth and final FCIAC playoff slot. They were also ranked No. 13 in the state.
“Every time we get on the bus now, we believe we can win,” Lubrano said. “We can compete.”
THE STRETCH DRIVE
The remainder of this season is both an opportunity and a challenge.
The Tigers will be road warriors with four away games in the final five of the regular season. They will meet powers New Canaan, Greenwich, Hall-Conard and Trumbull-St. Joseph away while hosting McMahon-Norwalk.
Ridgefield-Danbury will be battling with Fairfield and Greenwich for the final two FCIAC playoff slots.
“Our team is young. But they understand the season is a marathon not a sprint,” Lubrano said. “I see improvement. I see the effort is always there. That gives me hope.”
As does the thought of possibly 17 returning players next season.
“Right now, my big-picture view is what we can do in the state tournament this year,” Lubrano said. “But every day I get excited about the future. I want the girls to get there. I have to contain my excitement about the possibilities.”
TOUGH DAY FOR SWS CO-OP
Stamford-Westhill-Staples (2-10, 2-7 FCIAC) saw a shot ring off the crossbar and drop over the goal line just 10 seconds into Saturday’s contest. They knew Ridgefield-Danbury had beaten them, 6-1 back on Dec. 19.
“We played them even in the third period (scoreless). And we killed off a couple of 5-on-3 situations,” said SWS co-head coach John Fay. “We paid a heavy price for mistakes. And drawing seven penalties hurt. We had opportunities we didn’t cash in. But Ridgefield-Danbury is a good squad.”
RIDGEFIELD 4 2 0—6
SWS 0 1 0—1
Records: Ridgefield-Danbury 7-7-1, 5-4-1 FCIAC; Stamford-Westhill-Staples 2-10, 2-7 FCIAC.
Goals: R—Emily Stefanelli 2, Julia Bongo 2, Julia Zangre, Natalie Preveza. SWS—Rachel Mensah. Assists: R—Kate Zangre, Stefanelli, Julia Zangre. SWS—Meadow Gilchrist, Abby Sottile. Goalies: Kendal Mountain (5 saves), Reagan Bonadies (18 saves). SWS—Tori Morgan (21 saves).