WEST HAVEN — The West Haven hockey team rallied to defeat Greenwich in the season opener, scoring three times in the final period. Looking to build off that momentum, the Westies scored first against Ridgefield Saturday afternoon.
However, that was all the Westies could muster.
The Tigers finished the game with the last four goals, on their way to a dominating 4-1 victory over the Westies at the Edward L. Bennett Rink in the opening game of the West Haven Christmas tournament.
West Haven never got into the flow of the game, giving Ridgefield six power plays. Couple the penalties with the turnovers and West Haven was destined to its first loss of the young season.
“We struggled in a lot of parts of the game,” West Haven coach Joe Morrell said. “We did not do anything well. We can’t take ourselves out of the game and we did that today.”
West Haven (1-1) wasted no time getting on the scoreboard as sophomore Tyler Paine scored just 1 minute, 6 seconds into the contest off assists from Jeremy Borelli and Devin Hines. That was all the offense on the day for the Westies.
Ridgefield goalie Alec Schneider was masterful, making just 17 saves, with some in fine fashion. Schneider shut the Westies out for the remainder of the opening period, including a stretch where he denied Hines several times from the point.
The Tigers needed just 1:26 to even the game as Liam Smith picked up a loose puck and beat West Haven goaltender Mike Savino with the equalizer.
“We had a slow first period, but as the game went on we picked up the pace,” Ridgefield coach Sean Gallagher said. “We started to pressure a little bit.”
Ridgefield (2-1) owned the second period, outshooting the Westies 12-5 and scoring the only goal of the period. The Tigers scored on the power play, their only man advantage goal of the game, when Callan McCormick scored off assists from Kyle Wolfarth and Shane Luery.
“You can’t give a good team like Ridgefield so many power-play opportunities,” Morrell said. “We have to be smart. We weren’t today and it hurt us.”
West Haven had limited opportunities in the middle period and Schneider came up big when the Westies pressured. Schneider made a nice save off a Jaeson Puleo backhander with 5 minutes left in the period, then was helped when Puleo rang the post on a power play with 26 seconds remaining in the period.
“I thought we played well,” Gallagher said. “They got a lot of shots from the point. They create a lot of traffic in front. They do a nice job with that.”
The Tigers ended any hopes of a West Haven comeback with an early goal in the third period. Sam Sarath took advantage of sloppy play in the West Haven end when the Westies could not clear and Sarath beat Savino 2:06 into the third for a 3-1 lead.
“We got sloppy out there,” Morrell said. “We can’t do that.”
Brad Alexander iced the contest for Ridgefield with 8:21 remaining off an assist from Jamie Kelly.
West Haven’s best scoring opportunity in the third period came with 3:30 left when Paine set up Kevin Coyle in front but Schneider was up to the challenge.
Schneider finished the game with 17 saves for the Tigers. Savino made 31 saves in the loss.