Goalie Charlie Zolin took care of business Greenwich’s zone, while his twin brother Wesley was impressive in New Canaan’s end, resulting in a significant early-season win for the Cardinals boys ice hockey team on Wednesday.
Wesley Zolin scored a first-period goal and Charlie registered 31 saves, pacing Greenwich to a hard-fought 1-0 win over New Canaan in an FCIAC rivalry game held at Dorothy Hamill Skating Rink.
The game’s lone goal occured with 11:26 remaining in the first period – a tally that helped set the tone early for the Cardinals Positioned deep in the right faceoff circle, Zolin knocked in a rebound off a shot from junior forward Liam Matthews, giving Greenwich a 1-0 lead. Senior Jack Hutchins helped set up the tally by intercepting a pass deep in the Rams’ zone.
“We got the puck down deep, it was early in the game and we were keeping up the high pace,” Zolin said of his goal. “We went hard to the puck and we put some bodies on the puck. It was Hutchins who intercepted the puck and gave it to Matthews and I picked it up around the back door area and I put it in hard.”
The Cardinals were especially eager to get on the ice for a game. Unlike most teams who have played four or five games at this point of the season, Wednesday marked just Greenwich’s third contest of the season. They’ve had two games postponed due to inclement weather.
“Every time we step on the ice it’s a blessing,” Wesley Zolin said. “We have to be grateful for the situation we’re in. We’re grateful to have Dorothy Hamill allowing us to play and practice and we’re advantage of every opportunity.”
Added Greenwich coach Jack Duffy: “We haven’t had a good pattern of games yet, but the boys have been resilient and we are starting to put some things together. We played for 45 minutes today for the first time all year. It was a nice ‘W’.”
New Canaan (3-2-1) received 29 saves from sophomore netminder Beau Johnson. The Rams generated scoring opportunities throughout, with their best moments coming in the third period.
“We played physical, but we don’t do it enough,” said New Canaan assistant coach Scott Linde, who helped lead the team Wednesday night in the absence of head coach Clark Jones, who is in quarantine for precautionary reasons. “I think we are a little bit easy to play against. We don’t get traffic in those tough areas and we have to do a better job of taking a hit to make a play. Those are the things that we did last year and that is what made us successful.”
Both teams had one power play opportunity in the opening period, but they effectively killed each penalty and the score remained 1-0. Sophomore defenseman Shane Mettler tested Zolin with a shot early in the Rams’ first period power play and positioned between the circles, sophomore Brendan Briggs snapped a shot toward Zolin, who snatched the puck out of the air with 2:16 to go in the opening period. Scoring early was important for the Cardinals (2-2) who were coming off a defeat at the hands of Ridgefield.
““It was really significant, it gave us some sort of intensity and that allowed us to keep it going the rest of the game,” Wesley Zolin said. “The rest of the game, we kept battling and kept up that high pace.”
In the second period, Greenwich forwards Jake Shreders, Dylan Kronengold, Hutchins and Brendan Frost threatened to extend the Cardinals’ edge, but Johnson stepped up with impressive saves to keep it a one-goal game.
The final period featured physical play from both teams, which combined for nine penalties in the matchup (five by Greenwich, four New Canaan). In the final frenetic two minutes of play, the Rams desperately tried to knot the score, putting plenty of traffic in front of the net.
“It was very chaotic the last couple of minutes of the game,” Charlie Zolin said. “We did a good job of getting the puck out of our zone. We kept the puck out of the net and we did a good job playing strong.”
Greenwich’s goalie credited the defensemen and his coach for keeping the Rams off the scoreboard.
“During the power plays, I didn’t get a lot of shots,” he said. “Coach Duffy was helping us out he watched a lot of film on their power play, so we were able to get everything out and keep the shots out.”
Johnson also kept the game hanging in the balance, as he scrambled to make significant third-period saves.
“We rely on our goaltending a lot, which is good, but we have to make some plays and take it to the other team,” Linde said. “I thought our penalty kill did a good job, but we took a couple of bad penalties in the second period. Teams are looking at us as the defending FCIAC champions, so we have a target on our backs. We have a very talented team, but we need to focus on being tough to play against, meaning team defense and getting traffic in front of the other team’s net.”
Seniors Ben Bates and Chris Cataldo helped pace Greenwich’s solid defensive effort.
“Since the first game against Darien (a 7-4 loss), we had a wake-up call and we kind of picked it up from there and we have battled,” Bates said. “We knew we could keep the puck out of the net today and we tried to blocked shots and we worked hard until the end.”
Said coach Duffy: “Our defensemen were great. I felt really good in our defensive end, even when New Canaan was able to establish some offensive zone pressure. I felt good about it.”
The Cardinals coach was also impressed with how the Zolin twins stepped up.
“Wesley has to be a leader up front for us and we was tonight and Charlie just he played a solid game and he played unbelievable the last two minutes, so it was a great showing for them tonight,” Duffy said.
The next game on the schedule for the Cards is against New Canaan, as they will visit the Rams at Darien Ice House on March 3. The puck will drop at 7:50 p.m.