Greenwich High

New Canaan uses a dominant second period to skate past Greenwich in FCIAC boys ice hockey action

Photo by David Fierro: Greenwich goalie Nick Sinisi prepares to make a save while New Canaan’s Bryce Lyden (No. 16) closes in on the net during an FCIAC boys ice hockey game held on Jan. 5, 2022, at Dorothy Hamill Skating Rink in Greenwich.

Entering Wednesday’s game against FCIAC boys ice hockey rival Greenwich, New Canaan limited its opponents to two goals or less in three of its first four matchups, while being pretty efficient offensively.

The Rams dynamic duo of Beau Johnson and Michael Rayher made certain their team continued their impressive early season trend Wednesday evening at Dorothy Hamill Skating Rink.

Rayher recorded a hat trick with three assists, while Johnson made 21 saves for New Canaan, which rolled to a convincing 7-1 win over host Greenwich. Scoring four goals in the second period, then adding two more in the third period, the Rams raised their record to 4-0-1 with the win. They’ve yielded just seven goals over their first four games, while scoring an average of five.

“I really like the way we played, not only tracking back on our back checks, but how aggressive we started to get on pucks in the offensive zone,” New Canaan coach Clark Jones said. “A lot of that came from our defensive zone and getting up ice quickly, which was hard for them to deal with, because we can move.”

Indeed, the Rams were quick to the puck throughout, keeping the Cardinals on the defensive.

“We started to get to the puck pretty quickly, especially in the second period,” said Jones, whose Rams defeated Greenwich for the FCIAC Division I championship last season.

Greenwich defenseman Peter Lewis, left, moves the puck up the ice while being pursued by New Canaan’s Byrne Matthews during an FCIAC matchup on Jan. 5, 2022 in Greenwich.

Coming off a solid performance against Darien at last week’s Winter Classic, which was held outdoors at Greenwich Skating Club, Greenwich went into the second period tied with New Canaan at 1-1. Then the second period began and the Rams turned up their performance level and turned away the Cards.

“I thought it was terrible,” Greenwich coach Jack Duffy said of his squad’s second period. “We felt good after the first period, it was 1-1. We gave up a power play goal, then we got one back and the kids felt pretty good. Our message has been playing 45 minutes of hockey and we only played 15 tonight and that’s what’s frustrating about it. To come into the second period like that and be down 5-1 after two was very frustrating. We have a lot of work to do.”

The Cardinals, who suffered their fourth straight loss to drop to 1-4, have been defeated by tough opponents in the form of Fairfield Prep, Xavier, Darien and New Canaan. They were shut out in their losses against Fairfield Prep and Xavier, then put forth a solid effort in a 4-2 defeat to Darien. Things began to unravel for the Cardinals during the pivotal second period against the Rams.

“The message to the boys is that we have  to be tougher on our own end,” Duffy said. “They owned our defensive end in the second period and we can’t let that happen in our own end.”

Senior forward Randall Feda scored Greenwich’s goal, which was tallied during the opening period.

New Canaan spent a lot of time in Greenwich’s zone during their 7-1 triumph against the Cardinals.

On a power play, New Canaan scored the game’s first goal with 5:59 remaining in the opening period. Freshman forward Brayden Robie received a pass at the left faceoff circle and snapped a shot over the shoulder of GHS senior goalie Jack Ryan, giving the Rams a 1-0 lead. Junior Cam Wietfeldt and Rayher (senior) both captains, each assisted on the goal.

Greenwich responded with a power play goal of its own. Feda converted a shot from close in off a pass from senior Danny Windels at the 3:41 mark of the opening period, making it 1-1. Also setting up Feda’s tally was junior Gage Bria.

Ryan made 13 saves during the first period, while Johnson stopped five for the Rams, who quickly seized the momentum in period No. 2. Winning a faceoff in Greenwich’s zone, New Canaan took the lead for good at 2-1 courtesy of Rayher, who snapped a shot from the left wing past Ryan with 11:19 to go in the second period. At the 9:20 mark of the second period the Rams struck again, with this time sophomore Max Lowe tallying from the right wing off assists from sophomore Dylan Azzopardi and Rayher.

“We weren’t that sharp coming out of the gates and we made a few adjustments following the first period in terms of how they were coming in on us in our defensive zone and how we can make an adjustment,” said Jones, whose squad hosts Ridgefield on Saturday at Darien Ice House.

Receiving the puck open at the right wing after senior linemate Nick Megdanis won a faceoff, Rayher tallied again, putting the Rams on top, 4-1 with 3:44 still left in the third stanza.

“The faceoffs, that’s Nick Megdanis, he has to be running at 70, 80 percent on faceoffs,” Jones said. “They were immediate wins and Mike was able to get it onto his stick early and he had some space and let it go.”

Said Duffy: “They’re a well-coached team and they have some faceoff plays that they work well. That just goes into guys being aware and, on their assignments and getting there and we didn’t get there tonight. He’s (Rayher) one of their senior leaders and he’s a good player.”

New Canaan goalie Beau Johnson made 21 saves for the win against Greenwich.

Rayher completed his hat trick by tallying with 2:01 remaining in the second period. Freshman James Faucher had plenty of space to skate down the left wing and centered the pass to Rayher, who finished in front, putting Greenwich in a 5-1 hole.

“His work ethic today, you look at his goals, but even on top of that, his back checking, his forechecking, his feet were moving and when he does that he just seems to get opportunity after opportunity,” Jones said of Rayher’s effort. “When he gets it anywhere around it he can put the puck in net.”

Sophomore Doster Crowell and junior A.J. Bell added third-period goals for the Rams, who received 21 saves from Johnson – the MVP of last season’s FCIAC Division I final, which was also held at Dorothy Hamill Skating Rink.

“He’s been rock-solid, he’s really dialed in to getting better every day,” Jones said of Johnson. “He’s committed, he’s big and he moves really well. It’s tough to beat him. If we can allow teams to get one shot, or maybe two and it’s from the outside, Beau is going to stop it.”

Greenwich’s hockey team gathers prior to its game against New Canaan at Dorothy Hamill Skating Rink.

Ryan registered 20 saves over the first two periods, before sophomore Nick Sinisi was inserted in goal and posted 14 third period saves for the Cards.

“We competed better in the third period,” Duffy said. “Again, we played 15 good minutes and 30 not so good minutes. We talked to the boys about sticking together and the only way to work out of a tough part of the season like this is hard work.”

Greenwich hosts Rhode Island foes LaSalle Academy and Bishop Hendricken Saturday and Sunday.

“They are two quality teams coming down here and we need to make some progress here,” Duffy said. “Win or lose, we have to be better.”

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