Edged by a goal in its previous meeting against St. Joseph, the Greenwich boys hockey team was involved in another one-goal game against the Cadets on Monday, this time in an elimination matchup – the FCIAC Tournament’s playdown round.
Unlike its game against the Cadets on March 13, the Cardinals held a one-goal advantage the majority of the game, then unleashed its offensive potential in the third period.
Using a first-period goal and three third-period tallies, third-seeded Greenwich registered a workmanlike 4-0 victory over sixth-seeded St. Joseph in the opening round of the FCIAC Tournament at Dorothy Hamill Skating Rink.
The playdown round win propelled the Cardinals (9-4) into the FCIAC semifinals, where they will face second-seeded Fairfield Warde/Ludlowe Thursday at Wonderland of Ice.
“The most satisfying thing about this game was seeing our team come through a tough game and come out with a win,” said Cardinals senior forward Sean Duffy, one of the squad’s captains. “Good teams even when they are having a tough game, they come out with a win, so it’s good that we came through adversity.”
Sophomore Peter Lewis posted one goal and one assist, senior Thatcher Danielson had two assists and Duffy, junior Liam Matthews and senior John Cataldo added a goal apiece for the Cardinals. Though Greenwich held a 1-0 lead heading into the third period, Cardinals coach Jack Duffy was especially pleased with what he witnessed from his squad in the third period.
“The first two periods felt a little bit like the beginning of the season, when we weren’t scoring goals,” coach Duffy said. “I think St. Joe’s was dictating the play early. We did get some chances, but we didn’t bury them. The third period, that was much better. We created opportunities and we buried some chances and that’s what we have to do from the start in the semifinals against Fairfield.”
Coached by Chris Nelson, St. Joseph finished its season at 2-11, but like the Cardinals, played a tough, Division I, FCIAC schedule. The Cadets defeated the Cardinals on March 13, 1-0.
“Their coach does a great job with their team, we had two really tough games against them, which shows that they’ve been working really hard,” coach Duffy said. “We had our work cut out for us.”
Greenwich, which has reeled off four straight wins, outshot St. Joseph, 34-23. Junior goalie Charlie Zolin recorded 23 saves for the shutout win. The Cadets had a 5-on-3 power play for a brief part of the first period, but Zolin kept it a scoreless game, making a save off a shot from the point by junior Kyle Marcinko. After an effective penalty kill, Greenwich built momentum late in the first period, while on a power play. Receiving a pass from Danielson following a faceoff in the Cadets’ zone, Lewis, positioned at the right wing, delivered the puck to Cataldo at the left post. Cataldo then quickly put a one-timer past St. Joseph junior goalie Tyler Stiewing, giving Greenwich a 1-0 lead with 2:58 remaining in the first period.
The second period saw Greenwich register 13 shots on goal, but it couldn’t pad its lead due to Stiewing’s impressive play in goal. Yet Greenwich lit the lamp three times in the third period, with Sean Duffy tallying the period’s first goal 3:51 into the period. Seniors Jack Hutchins and Jake Shreders each set up the Cards’ second goal of the evening.
“I liked how we really sealed the deal at the end and how we stayed together as a team,” Sean Duffy said. “We didn’t break down and we were doing smart things with the puck – getting it deep, backchecking.”
Matthews, one of the Cardinals’ leading scorers on the season, added another goal to his ledger by tallying with 10:20 left in the third period, off assists from Danielson and junior forward Wesley Zolin. Lewis capped the scoring with 44.6 seconds to go in the final period. Stiewing made 30 saves for the Cadets.
“Momentum was key for us in the third period,” said Danielson a senior forward/captain. “We got our legs moving, shots on net and Liam Matthews put one it that swung the momentum. St. Joe is a solid opponent, they leave their hearts on the ice. I could tell they really wanted it, but we just had to get on the right track and get pucks on the net.”
Said coach Duffy: “The pace of the play was really good from our team and we were doing tough things with the puck in the third period.”
Zolin was once again, strong in goal, behind defensemen Chris Cataldo, Lewis, Shea Madded and Ben Bates.
“Charlie really stepped up, St. Joe’s had a couple of really great opportunities in the second period and he made a few great saves and that kind of set the tone for us in the third,” coach Duffy said.
So now Greenwich will face a Fairfield co-op squad that it beat twice last week on consecutive days. The Cardinals defeated Fairfield, 5-2 this past Friday and 4-0 on Saturday.
“We definitely can’t get overconfident,” Sean Duffy said. “We have to make sure we treat them with the same respect we treat other teams and that we go into the game prepared.”
Winners of four straight, the Cardinals, of course, feel good about how they are playing at this point of the season.
“We had a bumpy start, but we’re heading on the right path and we’re heading for success in this tournament,” Danielson said. “It feels amazing to be moving on to the semifinals. I’ve been playing for four years and I’d love to get a victory out of this one.”