Monday’s matchup against Daniel Hand was certainly a game of firsts for Greenwich’s boys ice hockey team.
Junior Cole Studwell made his first career start for the Cardinals, who saw Gage Bria Will Duncan and Joe Lewis each score their first varsity goals in the squad’s season-opener.
And all of those first-time accomplishments resulted in an impressive debut for the 2021-2022 Cardinals.
Though the game was scoreless after two periods, Greenwich made up for their missed chances in the third period, tallying four times on its way to a 4-0 victory over Daniel Hand before a large crowd at Dorothy Hamill Skating Rink.
Studwell will long remember his varsity debut between the pipes. He registered 32 saves for the shutout, with some of his finest moments occurring during the second period.
“I had a little bit of nerves going into the game, but the team made it pretty easy for me and made me comfortable,” Studwell said. “The team played great in front of me. They were blocking shots – Brendan Frost, Shea Madden, all the defense – Peter Lewis – they were helping out so much.”
There were nine penalties through the first two periods, with Greenwich being whistled for five. Hand went on the power play three times during the second period, but Studwell kept it a scoreless game, making saves off shots from Marcus Padula and Kevin Sandor. His glove save off a slap shot from the right wing at the 3:32 mark of the second period was one of the highlights of his performance in goal.
“Without him in the second period, it could have been a different story,” Greenwich coach Jack Duffy said. “His first career start – hopefully that gives him a lot of confidence. He did a heck of a job.”
The Cardinals’ go-ahead goal came with 12:59 remaining in the third period and just five seconds left on their power play. Pratley, a senior forward, scored on a one-timer off a perfectly placed pass from behind by senior linemate Danny Windels, giving Greenwich a 1-0 lead.
“We actually drew it up,” Pratley said of his goal. “It was a textbook breakout. I got a pass from Frosty (Brendan Frost) and I gave it to Windels in the corner and he dished it out in front. Me and him (Windels) have some good chemistry going back a couple of years, so he knew where I was.”
Just 34 seconds later, the Cards increased their advantage. Following a faceoff in its zone, the home team scored off a rush up the ice, with Bria, a junior finishing off a feed from senior forward Nate Duffy, making it 2-0 at the 12:25 mark of the second period.
“We definitely came out slow, but coach gave us a talk in the locker room that hyped us up and we took care of it right away, once we got on the ice,” said Nate Duffy, a tri-captain. “Once Pratley scored that goal we had the momentum.”
William Duncan got his stick on a loose puck in front off a rebound and knocked it past Daniel Hand goalie Alex Schiano, giving Greenwich a 3-0 edge with 3:02 left to play in the final period. Alex McGarvey, a junior, was credited with the assist.
Like Bria and Duncan, freshman Joe Lewis notched his first career varsity goal. His tally with 1:45 to go in the third period sealed the win. Senior Randall Feda assisted on the Cardinals’ fourth goal.
Coach Duffy was pleased with how his team raised their level of play in the third period.
“I thought we played pretty well in the first period and I thought mentally, we didn’t do so well in the second period,” Jack Duffy said. “We had a lot of penalties, we were undisciplined. But coming out and playing a better third period was a good sign for the guys. We are a work in progress and we got better in the third period, we found a way to win against a pretty tough team.”
Right from the outset of the third period, Greenwich was quick to the puck and created scoring opportunities, while playing sound defense.
“We just had to get the boys going, get some good plays going, score a goal and then everyone rallied around Studwell – he made some amazing saves and shout out to him, he had a great shutout,” Pratley said. “We just had to pick it up. Less penalties, better team play and better morale.”
Said Jack Duffy: “It was a good step forward. They were hard-working goals. Danny Pratley is a senior leader, who scored and we got three goals out of new guys, their first career goals, which was a good sign.”
Senior captains Brendan Frost and Shea Madden, along with junior Peter Lewis, helped spark Greenwich’s stellar play at the blue line.
“Starting the season with a win like this is awesome,” Studwell said. “Hopefully, they’ll be many more to come for our team this season.”
Greenwich is right back in action Tuesday against non-conference rival Fairfield Prep. The Cardinals will travel to Wonderland of Ice to meet Fairfield Prep, a team they have faced numerous times in the postseason over the years.
“I’ve got a lot of football friends who are not so happy with the Prep boys (Fairfield Prep defeated Greenwich in the CIAC Class LL Football Tournament) and we’re looking forward to it,” Pratley said.
“Fairfield Prep has always been one of the top teams in the state, so we told the boys we have to play a really solid game,” Jack Duffy said. “It is going to be a challenge this early in the year. We have to go up there and play more with more discipline and take less penalties.”