Despite seeing Guilford score the first five goals of Tuesday’s state tournament game and eventually building a six-goal lead, Greenwich High School’s girls ice hockey team certainly didn’t give in – instead the Cardinals staged a fierce comeback.
Indeed, there was no quit in these Cards, who scored five straight, late goals during a five-minute stretch of their opening-round matchup of the CHSGHA Tournament. Yet the deficit they faced turned out to be a little too much to overcome.
Sophomore forward Sofia Cuozzo scored a game-high four goals, while senior forward Madison Epke recorded a hat trick to power ninth-seeded Guilford to an 8-6 win over eighth-seeded Greenwich in the first round of the CHSGHA State Tournament at Dorothy Hamill Skating Rink.
Guilford advanced to Thursday’s state tournament quarterfinals, where it will play top-seeded and undefeated New Canaan at Darien Ice House at 5:30 p.m.
Greenwich, meanwhile, finished its 2021-2022 season with a record of 10-7-1.
“It was a great season for our team, we improved so much throughout the season,” said Brooke Heron, who concluded her first season as Greenwich’s coach. “I’m so proud of the team for battling back and never giving up in this game against a very good team. We played a great third period and created a lot of opportunities throughout the game.”
Junior forward Kimberly Evans added a goal for Guilford, which led 4-0 after the first period and 7-2 following the second. For the Cardinals, junior forward Sophie Roth registered two goals, as did senior forward Lexi Danielson. Peyton Jelinek, a junior forward and Kelsey Roth (junior forward) each scored one goal apiece for the Cardinals, whose best moments came toward the end of the second period into the final period.
“The love for each other, caring for each other is what helped us come back,” said Danielson, who served as one of the Cardinals’ senior captains. “In the locker room we were saying this could be our last game and we were just pushing with everything we got.”
Controlling the puck in Guilford’s zone, Epke quickly skated up the ice on a breakaway and snapped a shot past GHS junior goalie Emma Kunschner, giving the visitors a seemingly comfortable 7-2 advantage with 2:09 remaining in the second period. Yet then the situation changed.
Sophie Roth lifted a backhanded shot from the right faceoff dot past Guilford senior goalie Julia McDonald with one minute left in the second period. Kelsey, Sophie’s twin sister, assisted on the tally. At the 13:29 mark of the third period, the sister combination created another goal for the Cards, with this time Kelsey converting a shot courtesy of Sophie, making it 7-3.
With 11:57 to go in the final period, freshman defender Nina Coffee slid a long pass down the ice to Sophie Roth, who finished with a wrist shot, pulling Greenwich to within 7-4.
“We just had to put everything that happened in the past and try to work for our seniors and give it our all, stay positive and have no negative thoughts about what happened,” Sophie Roth said of the team’s third-period rally. “In the third period, we wanted to leave everything on the ice and leave nothing behind.”
The Cardinals kept pushing, eventually slicing Guilford’s once six-goal lead to one. Danielson scored off a strong rush up the ice, after receiving a pass from freshman Alexis Carino, making it 7-5 with 11:05 still left in the third period.
Just 35 seconds later at the 10:35 mark of the final period, the same combination struck again for GHS, with Carino setting Danielson up for her second goal, cutting the Cards’ deficit to 7-6.
That would be the last goal of the game for the Cardinals, however, as McDonald made several key saves during the remaining minutes. In the final minute of action, Greenwich pulled Kunschner from goal and Epke converted an empty-netter bringing the score to 8-6 with only 21.2 seconds left to play.
Cuozzo scored three goals during a first period that saw Guilford quickly move the puck and generate rushes up the ice. Evans also tallied in the opening period for Guilford, which scored its first two goals in the game’s first 1:59.
“There was a lot of odd-man rushes and a large part of it was the responsibility of the ‘D’,” said Tess Marciano, one of the team’s captains. “We changed up the ‘D’ a few times we would run three ‘D’ and four ‘D’. We definitely had a change once we got that first goal, I think we had the fire of getting it back again. That happened even more, especially the third period.”
Junior forward Peyton Jelinek got GHS on the scoreboard, tallying off an assist from Marciano with 12:59 to go in the second period.
Though disappointed with the loss and their season coming to an end, the Cardinals were pleased with how they battled back in the game.
“It was fun to watch, in a way, even though we lost, it’s a fun way to end my career,” Marciano said. “It was good that we came back even though we ended up losing, it was nice to not let them have an easy win and just walk out of here with that in mind. It made me somewhat happier than if we lost in a big way.”
Said senior forward/captain Lily Bates, who also paced Greenwich offensively throughout the season: “We were a little bit shocked when they scored a bunch of goals. But we all motivate each other and once we got back in the locker room, we just said we’re not going to lose by this much and we’re going to try to score as much as we can.”
Greenwich had the momentum in the third period and came close to tallying the equalizer.
“We definitely could have tied it, our team usually does super well when we get it going and get a couple of goals in,” Bates said. “If we started like that in the second period, I think we definitely think we could have won.”
Kunschner made more than 30 saves in goal for Greenwich, while McDonald turned away almost 30 for the victors. The matchup marked the final game for Greenwich’s seniors: Bates, Danielson, Marciano, Olivia Lombardo and Fiona Breier.
“We’ve played so hard, we’ve done so much toward this team,” Danielson said. “It was a roller coaster, there were so many changes, but being part of this team was the best thing that’s ever happened to me. It’s crazy that my hockey career is coming to an end, but I wouldn’t change anything.”
Said Sophie Roth: “They (the seniors) definitely had a huge impact and we’re going to miss them. I am excited to hopefully, lead this team next season.”
Greenwich’s seniors next year will be the Roth sisters, Jane Freyer, MK Savio, Jelinek, Caroline Lawrence, Hannah Wahl and Kunschner.
“The future is bright,” Heron said. “We had a strong junior class that will be coming back as seniors next year to lead us.”
Categories: Greenwich High, Winter sports
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