The regular season ended the way it began for the Greenwich High School girls ice hockey team: with an impressive win.
The Cardinals capped the regular season in style Tuesday, skating to a well-earned 4-2 victory over the combined West Haven-Sacred Heart Academy team at Dorothy Hamill Skating Rink. With a successful 10-5-1 regular season in the books, Greenwich now turns its attention to the part of the season it has been waiting for all winter – the postseason.
“It’s very exciting,” GHS junior forward Caroline Lawrence said of the rapidly approaching postseason tournaments. “I think we have worked very hard. We went through a rough patch, but now we are starting to get our rhythm back in and get ready for FCIACs.”
The FCIAC Girls Hockey Tournament begins next Wednesday and Greenwich is seeded No. 4. They will face top-seeded New Canaan at Darien Ice House in next Wednesday’s semifinal-round. The Cards have also qualified for the state tournament, which takes place following the FCIAC Tournament.
“I’m really excited for FCIACs, I think we have a lot of chemistry and we’re ready for FCIACs and we’re going to come out strong,” said Cardinals junior forward Peyton Jelinek, who registered one goal and two assists in the team’s triumph Tuesday. “If we just keep playing how we’ve been playing and taking our time with the puck we’ll do really well.”
Junior Sophie Roth paced Greenwich offensively against West Haven-Sacred Heart, recording two goals and one assist.
“What we have been focusing on is playing a 45-minute game and not letting up and using our forecheck and keeping it in their zone the whole time,” Roth said.
Junior Emma Kunschner turned in another effective performance in goal, making numerous key saves for the Cardinals, who were led defensively by Lawrence, freshman Nina Coffee, senior Tess Marciano and sophomore Lindsay Allen.
Following a scoreless first period, three goals were tallied in the second, two of which came off the Cardinals’ sticks. West Haven scored the game’s opening goal, as sophomore defender Taylor Alfano converted a shot from the left wing shortly after a faceoff in Greenwich’s zone with 10:11 remaining in the second period. Junior Anne Plunkett and sophomore forward Ashley Welch each assisted on the tally, which came with the visitors applying pressure in the Cardinals’ zone.
Greenwich answered at the 4:36 mark of the second period. Sophie Roth tipped in a rebound off a shot by Jelinek and Kelsey Roth, Sophie’s twin sister, also helped set up the goal, which tied the score at 1-1.
“Peyton Jelinek had it at the point and she got a great shot off and I saw the goalie was looking for it, so I just looked and I was there and I tipped it in,” Sophie Roth said.
The home team took a 2-1 edge when Sophie Roth notched her second goal at the 3:58 mark of the second period. Marciano passed the puck to Roth, who from the left faceoff circle, put a backhanded shot past West Haven’s goalie, putting the Cardinals on top, 2-1.
“My second goal was a big momentum shift, we really needed it,” Sophie Roth said. “The goalie wasn’t looking and I got a good shot off from the left side and it just happened to go in.”
Greenwich has been in a lot of close games of late and Tuesday was no exception, as West Haven-Sacred Heart knotted the score at 2-2 with 13:44 to go in the third period. Ashley Welch directed a tough angled shot past Kunschner’s stick side, to even the score.
A pair of West Haven penalties put Greenwich on a 5-on-3 power play and the home team capitalized. Finding herself open on the left wing after controlling the puck off a faceoff, Lawrence quickly slapped a shot home, giving GHS the lead for good at 3-2 with 8:16 remaining in the final period. Allen and Coffee were each credited with assists on the goal.
“We had that set play,” Lawrence said. “We just figured it out before the game and we decided to do it during the time out. Nina passed it to me and I just hit a one-timer. I didn’t expect it to go in, but it went in.”
Jelinek gave the Cards some breathing room by scoring off a rebound with 3:13 to go in the third period, giving the team a 4-2 advantage. Sophie Roth and senior forward Lexi Danielson each assisted on the tally.
“I think we did a lot of better of taking our time today than we have in the past,” Jelinek said of the squad’s offensive performance. “We were looking up and seeing whose open and I think that really worked to our advantage.”
Generating goals hasn’t been an issue for the Cardinals so far this season, as they have scored four or more goals in a game 10 times already.
“One thing that really helped us today was our ability to make stick-to-stick passes and our rebounds were really good,” Jelinek said. “We were able to crash the net and get our stick on it. And we were winning most of the battles, which really helped us.”
Greenwich’s meeting against New Canaan in next Wednesday’s FCIAC Tournament at Darien Ice House will be its third game against the Rams this season. The Cardinals lost to the Rams, 5-2, in the first matchup and gave their New Canaan foe a tough time in the second game, losing 2-0.
“We have definitely been improving this entire season so it’s nice having this test coming up to see how we do,” Sophie Roth said.