Lexi Danielson had plenty of pent-up energy and enthusiasm heading into Greenwich’s girls ice hockey team’s game against Wilton-McMahon-Norwalk Wednesday night and for very good reason.
A senior forward, Danielson returned to action for the Cardinals after missing the team’s first six games of the season due to an injury.
And it was indeed, a dazzling debut for the Cardinals’ senior tri-captain.
One of Greenwich’s leading scorers in previous seasons, Danielson recorded a hat trick with one assist to help propel the Cardinals past Wilton-McMahon-Norwalk, 9-5, in an FCIAC matchup played at Dorothy Hamill Skating Rink.
Danielson sustained a concussion during Greenwich’s first day of tryouts and had been sidelined since, as she took the ice for Wednesday night’s game.
“I’ve been out for about two months now,” said Danielson, a tri-captain. “It’s been really frustrating watching on the bench, but it felt good to be back. This was my fourth concussion, so I was focused on getting my schooling back, before prioritizing hockey and just really making sure I was healthy before I came back.”
Danielson’s rehabilitation included physical therapy and when she started the game at right wing – skating on the Cards’ first line – she made her presence felt in a big way. She scored two goals in the second period, then tallied in the third period to complete her hat trick. Greenwich, which won its second straight game to raise its record to 4-3, was tied with Wilton, 3-3, following the first period and led 6-4, after the second period.
“It’s really exciting to be with the team, it’s so different just watching,” Danielson said. “I want to be able to improve with the team and just contribute to everything and it felt amazing to be part of a unit.”
Junior forward, Sophie Roth, who tallied twice in Greenwich’s 9-3 victory against Fairfield Co-Op on Monday, continued her torrid scoring pace, registering a hat trick with two assists against the visiting Warriors. Freshman Nina Coffee had one goal and one assist, while senior Lily Bates and junior Peyton Jelinek added one goal apiece to also spark the winning effort.
For the Warriors (1-6), freshman forward Kate Lane posted two goals and two assists, while right wing Natalie Richardson scored twice. Junior forward Isabelle DiNanno contributed one goal and one assist for the visitors. The physical matchup included 11 penalties, with each team having power play opportunities. Wilton-McMahon-Norwalk took eight penalties.
“It was a very gritty game, there were some punches thrown that I saw and some skirmishes in front of the net, but I think we really pulled through and we won where it really counted – the scoreboard,” Greenwich senior defender/tr-captain Tess Marciano said. “We were getting those hard shots in and not giving up, we played hard and had a lot of grit.”
The triumph marked the second straight game Greenwich lit the scoreboard with nine goals. The Cardinals were supposed to host FCIAC rival New Canaan tonight, but inclement weather forced Greenwich Public Schools to be closed, so the game is postponed.
“It’s definitely a good sign, it’s good that we’re coming in hot and on a roll with the wins,” Marciano said.
After a highly active opening period that saw the team’s split the game’s first six goals, Greenwich took the lead for good at 4-3 when Sophie Roth scored after the Cardinals won a faceoff in Wilton’s zone with 12:30 remaining in the second period. Freshman defender Alexis Carino, who had two assists, set up Roth’s go-ahead goal.
Danielson’s first goal came at the 6:27 mark of the second period. Controlling the puck off a rebound on a shot by Sophie Roth, Danielson snapped a shot from between the circles past Wilton senior goalie Emily Johnson, putting the Cards, coached by Brooke Heron, on top, 5-3.
“It was exciting,” Danielson said of her return. “I was definitely intimidated and worried to come back out on the ice, but I knew my team was out there for me and I just worried about the game – it was exciting.”
She started and skated on a line comprised of senior tri-captain/center Lily Bates and Roth (left wing).
“We just got Lexi Danielson back and she played on my line, which is great and we had a little bit of line changes, but I think we played strong with the goals,” Bates said. “It’s great plying with Lexi, I’ve been playing with her for over six years. It’s nice having her on my line, because she’s familiar with me. She’s a super strong player and I love playing on a line with two girls who can score goals – it’s a lot of celebrating and fun.”
Wilton closed to within 5-4 on junior Isabel DiNanno’s goal with 3:31 to go in the second period. Lane assisted on the tally, which made it a one-goal game. With GHS on a power play after a Warriors’ tripping infraction, it capitalized. Danielson notched her second goal, scoring from the right wing, following a faceoff, giving the Cardinals a 6-4 advantage with 1:29 left in the second stanza. Freshman Nina Coffee assisted on the tally, as did junior forward Peyton Jelinek.
“I was just focusing on the net, something I always practiced in my backyard,” Danielson said of her goals. “It’s exciting to get the goals after working hard for them.”
Junior goalie Emma Kunschner got the win in goal for the Cardinals, making numerous saves each period against Wilton-McMahon-Norwalk, which kept coming at Greenwich.
“We definitely struggled in the first period with getting the girls who were open in front of the net and breaking it out – there was trouble with that originally,” Marciano said. “But we mixed up the lines a little and got some chemistry and flow going and once that happened, we started to click better. We started playing smarter, rather than panicking.”
Danielson completed her hat trick with 11:10 left in the third period, scoring off a pass from Caroline Lawrence. A junior, Lawrence had two assists, her first one helping give the Cardinals a 7-4 lead. With Greenwich on a 5-on-3 power play, Sophie Roth notched a goal off an assist from Coffee, making it 8-4 with 9:06 to go in the final period.
Following a goal from Lane at the 4:09 mark of the third period, Jelinek, who had a hat trick in Greenwich’s 9-3 win against Fairfield Co-Op, sealed the scoring with a goal off assists from Lawrence and Sophie Roth with 2:34 remaining.
Richardson scored the game’s first goal for the Warriors with 11:39 to go in the opening period and Bates knotted the score at 1-1 when she scored off a Danielson assist 2:21 later. Sophie Roth and Coffee added first-period goals for the victors, which received two assists from sophomore Lindsay Allen.