The FCIAC hockey schedule format has often been debated over the years, by coaches, fans and media.
Due to COVID-19 pandemic guidelines for the 2021 season, FCIAC hockey teams will not play a full, round-robin league schedule this winter.
That means the six FCIAC teams who historically participate in CIAC’s Division I will be allowed to fill their schedule with other Division I teams from around the state, rather than crossovers against the relatively weaker FCIAC teams in Division II and III.
It also means there will be no easy games for those teams.
“It’s certainly exciting,” Ridgefield coach Shaun Gallagher said. “This is what all the Division I teams have wanted.”
Gallagher said he and his fellow FCIAC coaches have been pushing the league make the change for years.
Though the change has come in a year when hockey teams are allowed a maximum of 12 regular season games, coaches said that the decision only made sense for the league to make the move.
“I think it’s appropriate,” New Canaan coach Clark Jones said. “I think it was the right move for everyone.”
The FCIAC’s six traditional Division I teams — Darien, Fairfield co-op, Greenwich, New Canaan, Ridgefield and St. Joseph — will play each other twice and have added two out-of-conference games.
Of those six teams, Darien, Greenwich, New Canaan and Ridgefield are expected to get strong consideration for the preseason GameTimeCT hockey poll.
“You can’t count out (coach) Carl (Larouche) and Fairfield co-op,” Jones said.
The league’s schedule has yet to be finalized and even when it is, games and dates could change. But as of now, New Canaan is scheduled to open the season against three potential Top 10 teams.
The defending FCIAC champion will play SCC/SWC powerhouses Fairfield Prep and Notre Dame-West Haven before league rival Ridgefield to cap off the first week.
“They have to compete every single night as hard as the can,” Jones said. “This is real life. You don’t get a day off.”
Ridgefield already has Fairfield Prep on its non-conference schedule.
“This season will probably feel more like a sprint,” Gallagher said.
Darien, the No. 1 team in the GameTimeCT poll for most of last season, plays Greenwich, Fairfield Prep, Notre Dame-West Haven and New Canaan in its first four games.
Then there is the FCIAC postseason experience, which will be split into two tournaments.
As of now, the six Division I teams will play in a Division I-only tournament. The remaining non-Division I teams (Norwalk/McMahon, Staples, Trumbull, Westhill/Stamford and Wilton) will play in a second tournament.