Some of the faces have changed and a new coach is at the helm, but the goals and expectations are indeed, the same for the Greenwich High School girls ice hockey team.
With a highly successful pedigree, the Cardinals expect to once again be one of the teams to beat in the FCIAC and state, while contending for both the conference and state titles.
“Our goal of course, is to win states and FCIACs, but overall, just to work hard and be a good, strong team,” said Greenwich tri-captain/defender Tess Marciano, a four-year starter. “We’re already well-bonded as a team. We have really good chemistry and we’re all close together, which helps our play on the ice.”
The Cardinals certainly showed chemistry and togetherness in their season-opener against Amity co-op on Monday at Dorothy Hamill Skating Rink.
Each line displayed solid puck movement for Greenwich, which also received stellar defensive play and goaltending in a decisive 3-0 victory over the combined Amity/North Haven/Cheshire team.
“That was a good team and I’m glad we were able to get more goals toward the end of the game,” Greenwich first-year coach Brooke Heron said. “Coaching here at Greenwich, it’s very exciting.”
Heron takes over the coaching reigns from Alex Lerchen, who resigned after spending seven successful seasons at the helm. Lerchen led Greenwich to two FCIAC Tournament titles (2016-17 season, 2017-18 season) and three appearances in the FCIAC finals. They also advanced to the semifinal-round of the state tournament twice. Last winter saw Greenwich reach the FCIAC Tournament semifinals.
Prior to arriving at Greenwich, Heron was a varsity assistant coach at Darien last season and also spent two seasons as an assistant coach at Wilton. Former New York Rangers defensman Tom Laidlaw joins the staff as an assistant coach.
The Cards return a talented nucleus from last season’s winning squad and bring in some first-year varsity players who should make an impact.
Freshman defender Nina Coffee was one such player who made a significant impact in her first varsity game for the Cardinals on Monday. Coffee broke a scoreless tie, converting a one-timer off a pass from fellow freshman Stella Buddy, who also made her varsity debut, giving GHS a 1-0 lead with 5:55 remaining in the first period.
Greenwich outshot Amity co-op, 41-16, and spent plenty of time in the visitors’ zone, generating scoring opportunities throughout.
“We’re really connected off the ice and that helps on the ice,” Cardinals tri-captain/forward Lily Bates said. “We have a lot of new players, but it’s nothing we’re not used to and I think our chemistry on and off the ice is really good. That helped us with passing and playmaking.”
In the first period, Greenwich held a 16-9 shots-on-goal advantage on Amity and though the Cardinals didn’t tally in the second period, they outshot the visitors, 14-3. Sophomore goalie Ginny Curello totaled 38 saves for Amity co-op, while junior Emma Kunshner stopped 16 shots for the Cardinals (1-0).
“She’s a junior and she’s very solid,” Heron said of Kunshner. “She has really good rebound control and she’s a competitor out there. It’s awesome in the first game of the season she got a shutout.”
The home team widened its lead in the third period. Junior forward Peyton Jelinek tallied from close in off assists from junior linemate Caroline Lawrence and senior defender Lindsay Allen, making it 2-0 with 10:51 remaining in the second period.
At the 9:31 mark, junior defender Hannah Wahl converted a shot from just below the blue line, putting the Cards on top, 3-0.
“Two of our three goals tonight were scored by defensemen, which is awesome to see,” Heron said.
Lawrence and Jelinek were each credited with assists on Wahl’s goal. The line of Lawrence, Jelinek and freshman Alexis Carino started for the Cards, with Jelinek centering the unit.
“Caroline and Peyton are just warriors up there,” Heron said. “They don’t stop they are big competitors they bring that energy to the forward. Lexi, the freshman, she played winger tonight she battles too and I knew she would help pick up the puck. “They looked good together the three of them, for having never played as a line before.”
Following the second period, Greenwich was intent on adding on to its advantage in the final period.
“Everyone stepped up their game,” said Lawrence, who recently concluded a strong season for Greenwich’s soccer team. “We knew from the start that it should have been more than a 1-0 game and we kept wanting to get goals. The third period – we’ve been known as a third period team – we stepped it up and we started passing and making really good plays.”
Junior twin sisters Sophie and Kelsey Roth each generated shots throughout, as did their younger sister, Aubrey, a freshman. Their older sister, Delaney, a 2021 GHS graduate, played four years for Greenwich, serving as one of the captains last winter.
“We have the three Roth girls up there at forward, who are going to help us,” Heron said. “That’s a first for me, having three sisters on a team.”
The Cardinals will rely upon Marciano, sophomore Lindsay Allen, Coffee and Wahl defensively.
“It’s nice, we’ve got defenders who have different styles,” Heron said. “Tess is so solid and you know nothing bad is going to happen when she is on the ice. Then you have other players who are offensive-minded and like to get the puck to the net.”
Senior Lexi Danielson, a forward, who was one of the Cards’ key playmakers last season, is currently nursing an injury. She also serves as one of the squad’s captains and should also provide a spark upon her return.
Fiona Breier is a senior on the team, while Lila Fulton joins the team as a sophomore and Stella Buddy brings depth at forward as a freshman.
“I think it was a very strong start and I’m very excited to see where this takes us,” said Marciano, who is embracing her role as captain.
“It’s exciting, I’ve been on the team all four years, so it’s been nice to see how previous captains have done it,” Marciano said. “I’m incorporating what they did.”
Said Bates of her role as captain: “I’m used to looking up to them, so it’s nice being in charge this year. I learned a lot from them.”
Greenwich has a game Saturday against FCIAC rival New Canaan at Darien Ice House (3:50 p.m. start). They host Ridgefield-Immaculate-Danbury on Dec. 15, then rival Darien pays a visit to Dorothy Hamill Skating Rink on Dec. 18.
“I think we’re going to be pretty successful, based off our energy,” Bates said. “As long as we keep our confidence up, I think that we’re going to continue to do well. We have been practicing a lot and that’s going to help us a lot.”
Said Lawrence: “We’ve done really well in getting to know each other. It’s all about the connection and getting to know each other in order to make the passes. We’ve tried really hard to set each other up for success in the games.”