Qualifying for the FCIAC and Connecticut High School Girls Hockey Association tournaments are accomplishments the Greenwich High School girls ice hockey team is accustomed to, as it has competed in the postseason nearly every season since the program’s inception back in the winter of 2003.
Coming off a 10-win season in which it appeared in the FCIAC Tournament semifinals and the CHSGHA state tournament quarterfinals, the Cardinals are eager to continue the team’s winning legacy, while being led by a foursome of senior captains and a new coach.
“We always want to be a top competitor in the FCIAC and state,” said Sophie Roth, one of the Cardinals’ four senior captains. “We’re a very young team, but we’re all determined and passionate to get better each day, so that’s our focus.”
Twin sisters Sophie and Kelsey Roth, Peyton Jelinek and Caroline Lawrence are Greenwich’s four senior captains, all of whom have been members of the school’s varsity squad since their freshman year.
Greenwich, which opened its 2022-2023 campaign tonight against Guilford at East Haven Veterans Rink, lost to Guilford posted a record of 10-7-1 last season. Seeded eighth, the Cardinals were edged by Guilford, 8-6, in the state tournament quarterfinals a season ago and were defeated by unbeaten New Canaan, 2-0, in last winter’s FCIAC Tournament.
“I’m really excited, we have a lot of new skaters and we’ve been working on our team chemistry a lot and working on our passes and shooting,” said Lawrence, an All-FCIAC Second Team selection last season, who spent the majority of the season pacing the Cardinals’ defense. We’re a new team, but I think we’re going to have a really good season.”
Indeed, like all seasons, some of the faces have changed from the previous season, so this year’s senior captains and all of the squad’s upperclassmen, will be relied upon for leadership and productivity. Forwards Lexi Danielson and Lily Bates, defender Tess Marciano and Fiona Brier were among some of last season’s seniors. Danielson, who helped spark the offense and Marciano, a defensive leader, each earned All-FCIAC Second Team accolades.
Doug Jebb replaces Brooke Heron as Greenwich’s coach. Heron spent one season at the helm, guiding the Cards to a 10-7-1 finish. Jebb served as a varsity assistant coach for Stamford/Westhill/Staples the past four seasons. The 2021-2022 season saw Stamford/Westhill/Staples register an impressive record of 18-2-1 and defeat Darien in the FCIAC Tournament semifinals.
“What’s very exciting for me, is I have two daughters, so I know what it’s like to be a parent and raise varsity athletes,” Jebb said. “I have coached in the FCIAC and know how competitive it is. You look at the state championships, all but four in the past 15 years were from the FCIAC. So, we have our work cut out for us, but it’s a great opportunity. We have received great support from athletic director Peter Georgiou and the parents.”
A native of Buffalo, N.Y., Jebb played hockey at the University of Vermont, before transferring to Williams College. He played professional hockey in Europe for a season and has spent numerous seasons coaching the sport. Jebb’s oldest daughter was a diver at Staples High School and attends the University of Miami, while his youngest daughter is a junior at Staples, where she plays volleyball.
The Cardinals’ first-season coach appreciates what he has already seen from the senior captains.
“They’re tremendous,” he said. “It’s a great foursome, they are very driven you can tell, each day in practice.”
At every game and practice together, Greenwich will focus on the guidelines/rules/goals it listed for itself during the preseason.
“I have a theory behind coaching,” Jebb said. “All of these girls in the FCIAC are very smart, are very talented and very driven. I want to make things simple and give them the creativity make plays on the ice.”
The four Cardinal Rules the Jebb printed out and gave to his players are: work hard and be tough; play smart; don’t quit; be a great teammate.
The three goals in each zone the Cardinals will look to follow each game are: Get it Out, Get It In, Shoot & Score.
“I’m their third coach in three years, so for the seniors, this is their third set of instructions,” Jebb noted. “So, I’m very patient if we stick to our goals: Get It Out, Get It In, Shoot & Score – we’ll be OK.”
Last weekend, the Cardinals prepared for the upcoming season by having scrimmages against FCIAC rivals Darien and New Canaan and also playing a team from Canada, Kuper Academy, at Hotchkiss School.
“The scrimmages this past weekend were really fun,” Lawrence said. “We got to build up our team chemistry and learn how each other plays. It was a learning experience for us.”
Lawrence also served as a captain of Greenwich’s girls soccer team during the fall. She sustained an injury to her right shin during the soccer season and is currently sidelined, but hopes to be back on the ice with her teammates soon.
“I think this year I will be playing mostly winger, but you never know with how the season goes,” Lawrence said. “Hopefully, I can play most of the season. I have a fracture in my shin right shin, but it’s getting better.”
We’re really exciting for coach Jebb to coach for us,” Lawrence continued. “It’s been a great couple of weeks and we’re excited for the rest of the season.”
Jelinek centers the Cardinals’ first line which includes Kelsey Roth and Sophie Roth.
“I’ve been on varsity since freshman year, so being a captain is part of what I’ve been working for the past couple of years,” said Jelinek, who scored a lot of key goals last season. “We have a really strong group of girls and we definitely are ready to show these teams what we are as a team.”
“Coach Jebb is a great coach and we’re super excited to see what he’s going to bring to the team,” Jelinek added.
Generating goals wasn’t much of an issue last season for the Cardinals, who scored four goals or more in the majority of their matchups.
“This year we have the chemistry – we know each other strengths going into the offensive zone, so the chemistry is really flowing and I think we are going to create a lot of opportunities for our team this year,” Kelsey Roth said of skating on the squad’s first line. “We’re a young team, but we’re all determined to get better and we’re working hard every day. We want to be a top competitor and have the opportunity to win a championship.”
As for filling the role as one of the Cardinals’ captains?
“To finally be in that position to lead the team is really special,” Kelsey Roth said. “I’ve always looked up to the captains over the previous years.”
Sophie Roth, also a forward, who created numerous scoring chances for GHS a season ago, is one of the team’s athletes who is familiar with playing in postseason games.
“Being part of the team for four years has been nice, it’s been very different each year, but in a good way,” Sophie Roth said. “Each year, I’ve been able to connect with the seniors on the team. Coach is really dedicated to the team. From the moment he was hired, he has been doing non-stop work, doing numerous things and creating objectives for us to use to help us grow.”
“One of the fundamentals on our team this year is to shoot the puck as much as we can, so hopefully that will convert goals,” Sophie Roth continued.
Returning in goal for Greenwich is senior Emma Kunschner. Last winter saw Kunschner rise to the occasion between the pipes, making clutch saves in pivotal moments of numerous games. MK Savio is also among some of the Cardinals’ seniors.
“We have four solid defensemen, our goalie is very good and we have some depth,” Jebb said. “One of our goals is to be a top-four team in the FCIAC and get invited to the state tournament. We will get better as the season goes on.”
Greenwich visits Darien on Friday, then hosts New Canaan on Dec. 16 in its home-opener at Dorothy Hamill Skating Rink.
“We want to prove to everyone that we are going to fight and do the best that we can be a good, competitive team,” Lawrence said.
Categories: Greenwich High, Winter sports
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