Four longtime hockey rivals playing against each other in an outdoor matchup — indeed, it doesn’t get much better than that.
Such will be the scenario Saturday at Greenwich Skating Club, as the 2018 Winter Classic will be held for the second straight year.
The first outdoor game features girls ice hockey rivals Greenwich and New Canaan in a rematch of last season’s FCIAC Tournament final. The puck is scheduled to drop at 12:30 for the Rams-Cardinals game.
The second game, which is slated to begin at 4:30 p.m. at Greenwich Skating Club, involves FCIAC boys foes Greenwich and Darien.
The boys game between the Cardinals and Blue Wave is sold out. Shuttle buses, bringing spectators to Greenwich Skating Club for the boys game will begin leaving from Greenwich High School at approximately 3:30 p.m.
Tickets can still be purchased for the Cardinals-Rams girls game until Friday. Visit greenwichgirlshockey.com and once on the site, use the password – wc2018 to purchase tickets.
Last season’s Winter Classic was a big success, with a standing-room-only crowd viewing the games at Greenwich Skating Club.
The Blue Wave and Cardinals’ boys squads met at the Winter Classic in 2017, with GHS posting a 4-3 win.
“It’s a great event and a good showcase for high school hockey,” Cardinals boys hockey coach Chris Rurak said. “It’s a fun event, which we like to do for the kids. A lot of them grew up playing at Greenwich Skating Club, so this gives them one more game there.”
Last season’s matchup between the Blue Wave and Cardinals lived up to the hype.
“That game had everything that you want in a hockey game,” Rurak said. “It came down to the last shot in the last minute and there was some weather (a little snow) involved. When we were thinking about starting the Winter Classic last year, we knew we wanted the game to count and we wanted it to be between opponents that add to the atmosphere of the game. Darien was the natural pick.”
Matt Davey and Charlie Graves, both of whom are on this year’s Cardinals squad, each had goals in last season’s Winter Classic against Darien.
“This game has become such a big tradition in Greenwich,” said Davey, one of the Cards’senior captains. “Darien makes it even a bigger battle and tradition. It was good to be a part of last year’s event — I really enjoyed the hockey atmosphere.”
Cardinals senior forward Sean Pratley, also a captain, is looking forward to skating in his second Winter Classic.
“I think it is going to be a great game for both sides, it should be constant madness on the ice,” Pratley said. “It should be a physical game, so we’ll see how it turns out.”
Darien enters Saturday’s showdown with a record of 2-1, having beaten Hamden by a 3-1 margin and Fairfield Prep (2-1). The Blue Wave’s loss came against LaSalle Academy from Rhode Island in its season-opener. Against Hamden, sophomore Sean Bradley registered two goals, while sophomore Samuel Erickson tallied one goal and two assists for the Blue Wave.
“We know Darien is very deep with a bunch of solid players,” Pratley said. “They know the game well and are experienced, so it should be an evenly-matched game. It’s going to be a good, old traditional hockey game and with the elements outside and all those people packed into the place, it should be very exciting.”
Greenwich began its season with a 2-2 tie against New Fairfield-Immaculate, before posting a 3-1 win over New Canaan.
“The first game was definitely a game where had to figure out who we are and what we have,” Davey said. “Our second game we bounced back and played with a much higher tempo and faster pace. Everyone was really into our second game.”
Saturday’s girls game between New Canaan and Greenwich, involves the No. 1 and No. 2 ranked teams in the state, respectively.
The Cardinals topped the Rams for their second consecutive FCIAC championship last season. In last year’s Winter Classic, Greenwich beat Amity/North Haven/Cheshire, 6-1, behind five goals from forward Jennifer Kelly. Shuttle buses from Greenwich High to Greenwich Skating Club will be available for the girls game as well, beginning after 11 a.m.
“It is a cool event for everyone involved,” New Canaan coach Rich Bulan said. “We don’t get many chances to play outside anymore. We really get excited to play teams like Greenwich and Darien — these games have some extra excitement.”
The Rams go into the game with a record of 5-0, with victories against Hall/Conard, Simsbury, Norwalk/Wilton/McMahon, Darien and Ridgefield Danbury. New Canaan has scored 28 goals over its first five games.
“We are young, with 10 freshmen in our varsity lineup and seven sophomores,” Bulan said. “I am pleasantly surprised, we have seven or eight players within the six, seven, eight and nine-point range. So our scoring is really spread out among a lot of players.”
Senior Jessica Eccleston and freshman Angelica Megdanis have helped pace the Rams, while sophomore Blythe Novick has once again, flourished in goal.
Greenwich (3-0) has also received goals from numerous sources, with junior Emma Wingrove, Kelly, freshman Lexi Danielson, senior Grace Fahey, junior Syndey Orszulak, sophomore Delaney Roth and senior Paige Finneran leading the way.
“This is the No. 1 vs. No. 2 battle in the state, so it should be another great game between us,” GHS coach Alex Lerchen said. “New Canaan is deep, well-coached and fast, so it should be a good test for our team.”
Lerchen is pleased with the progress his squad has displayed over its first three games.
“We have been a little shorthanded due to a couple of injuries, but our team has moved the puck well and played solid team defense,” Lerchen said. “Saturday’s game will be our biggest challenge yet. I expect us to put our best foot forward on Saturday at a place a lot of our players are familiar with.”
Said Bulan: “As far as talent, Greenwich is right there at the top of the heap. I’m really looking forward to this game, it should be a lot of fun.”