Greenwich entered Tuesday’s game against FCIAC hockey rival Ridgefield riding a five-game winning streak, while being unbeaten in its last six matchups overall, but it met an obstacle on its trek toward another victory in the form of Ridgefield.
The visiting Tigers wasted little time striking first, scoring in the game’s first 35 seconds – a quick momentum boost that set the tone of this FCIAC contest.
Senior forward James Ahern registered two goals and Ridgefield jumped out to a three-goal lead on its way to recording an impressive 4-1 win over Greenwich at Dorothy Hamill Skating Rink.
The loss was the first for Greenwich since Jan. 8. Since then they had gone 5-0-1 in their next six games. The Cardinals’ record stands at 6-6-1 on the season and 3-3 in FCIAC play.
Ridgefield raised its record to 7-5-1 overall and 2-3-1 in the FCIAC. Greenwich had been getting off to strong starts during its recent hot streak, but Ridgefield was the aggressor early on Tuesday evening.
“We talked to the kids about being ready to play and it didn’t feel like we were ready to igo and it showed,” Greenwich coach Jack Duffy said. “We’ve talked about playing 45 minutes of hockey and we didn’t tonight. We were not prepared and it showed from the first shift and it really never got better after that.”
After controlling the puck on the game’s opening faceoff, the Tigers quickly took the lead. Sophomore Luke Pereira slid the puck to Ahern, who from between the circles snapped a wrister past Greenwich junior goalie Cole Studwell, giving Ridgefield a 1-0 lead.
“The first 30 seconds was a great start in terms of energy and Ahern, he’s been having a really good last couple of weeks of practice,” Ridgefield coach Shaun Gallagher said. “He’s had some really good shifts in some of our previous games. He just plays really well against Greenwich.”
Greenwich, which posted a 4-3 road victory over Ridgefield on Jan. 15, went on a power play at the 12:17 mark of the first period due to a Tigers tripping penalty, but couldn’t tally the equalizer.
Junior forwards Will Duncan and Alex McGarvey tested Ridgefield junior goalie Henry Ertl with shots during the power play, but the visitors maintained their 1-0 edge. Both goalies were stellar in the first period, with Studwell making nine saves and Ertl stopping eight shots.
“He (Ertl) made some saves that looked easy, but he couldn’t see some of the shots,” Gallagher said. “Greenwich did a good job of screening and taking away his vision on a few different opportunities and he made it look good.”
Ridgefield had numbers on a rush up the ice and tallied, with senior forward Eric Pereira converting a shot from the left wing, making it 2-0 with 11:36 to go in the second period. Senior defenseman Chris Hamilton assisted on the goal, as he sent a long pass up the ice to Pereira.
“I thought we started well, then got a little sloppy,” Gallagher said. “We came out in the second and we got a little simpler. We have a young team and I’m proud of our guys. They didn’t back down, they took some big hits. Greenwich is big and strong and they threw some hard, clean hits and I was proud of our guys for dealing with that, because sometimes you see teams shy away and the momentum shifts, because of that physicality.”
The Cards found themselves in a 3-0 hole after sophomore Anthony Riina scored in front of the net off a rebound with 8:47 left in the second period. Sophomore defenseman Shaun Rigby had the initial shot on goal.
Greenwich drew to within 3-1 on senior forward Danny Pratley’s unassisted goal with 4:25 remaining in the second period. Pratley’s goal from the slot seemed to give the home team a quick momentum boost, but the Tigers regained it by scoring 25 seconds into the third period.
With Greenwich on a power play, Ahern broke free down the left wing, skated in open ice and tallied, making it 4-1 at the 14:35 mark.
“When you’re down 3-1, you’re thinking, let’s go out and be intense and get one back and we give one up, which was a backbreaker,” Duffy said. “If you look at their goals – a lot of mental mistakes. A shorthanded goal – just a tough night.”
Said Gallagher: “I think the shorthanded goal – that was the seal. Our defensemen played well, after the first period when we made a couple of plays that weren’t us. Our ‘D’ fell into a rhythm and were a lot better.”
Greenwich will be in action again on Saturday against Northwest Catholic in Simsbury, the first of four straight road games for the squad.
“We’ve been making progress, so this is a frustrating loss,” Duffy said. Our team has been on a good run, but the way we played tonight was frustrating and we have to get better from here.”