STAMFORD—It’s all about maintaining a standard.
Every season the target gets larger on the collective backs of the Ridgefield boys ice hockey team.
And each campaign, the Tigers show why they’ve won the last three FCIAC Boys Hockey Championships along with the 2017 Division I state title.
Ridgefield improved to 3-0 in FCIAC action and 4-3 overall late Wednesday night thanks to a 6-2 road triumph over Westhill-Stamford Co-op at Terry Conners rink.
The Tigers scored with seven seconds left in the first period, with 1:08 remaining in the second period and finished the evening with a trio of powerplay goals.
“We had no problem skating with Ridgefield. But their three powerplay goals hurt,” said Westhill-Stamford co-coach John Santagata. “We’ve got to be more disciplined. They showed why they are an elite Division I team. They capitalized on all our mistakes.”
This 2019-20 Ridgefield squad has just six seniors on the roster. But that core has shown the youngsters and the newcomers exactly what is expected when they pull on the orange sweater.
Westhill-Stamford was impressive in the opening period only to have Tigers senior Cornelius van Wees put home a rebound with 7.7 seconds left to forge a 1-1 deadlock.
In the second period, Ridgefield senior Luke Welsh scoredc the first of his three goals on the powerplay with 1:08 remaining to give the Tigers a 3-2 edge.
Welsh (twice) and van Wees (once) also tallied in the third period as Ridgefield’s physicality wore down a game Westhill-Stamford group.
“We do have a lot of new guys. But the entire group is coming along nicely,” said Ridgefield’s veteran coach Shaun Gallagher. “Our veterans are pulling more weight than usual. Our entire group has performed better than expected.”
Ridgefield’s three losses have come against perennial powers Fairfield Prep, Xavier and LaSalle Academy (RI).
“The games against Prep and Xavier were close. It was a bounce here or a bounce of the puck there. LaSalle is always one of the best teams in New England,” Ridgefield’s Gallagher said. “We gained a lot of quality lessons against quality teams.”
Another key for the Tigers has been the play of junior goalie Matt Silliman. He registered 31 saves Wednesday night against Westhill-Stamford including 16 in the third period. Silliman got stronger as the contest went on.
“We’ve been fortunate in net with Silliman’s performance level,” Gallagher said. “He faced a host of quality chances. He made a lot of big saves.”
As the Tigers — who entered Wednesday night ranked No. 13 in Division I in the state — head into the meat of their FCIAC schedule, the future this new year looks bright.
“Our program has focused on building a day by day mentality,” Gallagher said. “The kids do the work. They love the game of hockey. There is never a day at practice where I’m concerned about their effort or committment level.”
PLAYER OF THE GAME
Ridgefield’s Luke Welsh: The senior collected three goals (two on the powerplay) as well as two assists in the win over Westhill-Stamford. Senior linemate Cornelius van Wees added two goals and two assists.