Four games into its season, the Greenwich High School girls ice hockey team is seeking its first win, but it came close to recording a victory against Hall/Conard Tuesday night in a game that saw it perform well on both ends of the ice.
Senior forward Peyton Jelinek scored on a penalty shot for Greenwich, which nearly registered the equalizer in the third period of its tough, 2-1 loss to the Hall/Conard co-op team at Dorothy Hamill Skating Rink.
The Cardinals, who were also edged by Guilford co-op in its season-opener, 2-1, are 0-4 heading into one of the games they have marked on their schedule – Thursday’s 2022 Winter Classic at Greenwich Skating Club. Greenwich’s other two losses came against outstanding teams in rivals Darien and New Canaan.
“We’re doing okay, we’re making steady improvement,” Cardinals first-season head coach Doug Jebb said. “The difference between where we are now and where we were our first game against Guilford is night and day. We’re talking about stacking one successful practice and one successful game on top of the other and we’re stacking them up.”
The Winter Classic, a game played outdoors at Greenwich Skating Club, will feature Greenwich against Ridgefield-Danbury-Immaculate Thursday at 1 p.m.
“It’s great, we’re very excited to be part of it,” Jebb said of the Winter Classic. “It’s going to be a great day of hockey.”
In Tuesday night’s game against Conard/Hall, Jelinek converted a penalty shot with 5:27 remaining in the second period to tie the score at 1-1. Conard/Hall received a goal from senior forward Annie Woods in the first period, then got the game-winner from junior Varya Atsian in the third period.
“I think we’re definitely improving as a team,” said Jelinek, a senior captain, who centers the Cards’ first line, which includes senior captains Sophie Roth and Caroline Lawrence. “We’re trying to get more team chemistry and bonding and it’s working out. We do a lot of passing in practice and it’s working out well on the ice during games.”
Senior goalie Emma Kunschner made 32 saves for Greenwich, which was outshot by Hall/Conard, 34-25. Kunschner helped keep the score knotted with a number of impressive saves, many of which came during Hall/Conard’s three power play opportunities.
“Tonight, we definitely put out our best effort, but there were a few little mistakes that we made that we could have improved on,” said Kunschner, who also produced a standout junior season. “We just need to work on that in practice, but it was one of our better games.”
Both teams created scoring chances during the opening period. Hall/Conard posted 14 shots on goal in the first period, while Greenwich got the puck to the net nine times. Turning away numerous shots the first 10 minutes of action, Kunschner allowed just one shot to get past her. With traffic in front of the net, Hall/Conard took a 1-0 lead when Woods knocked the puck in off a rebound with 4:46 left in the first period. Junior Emma Marcella, who took the initial shot on goal, was credited with the assist on the visitors’ first goal.
Kunschner and Greenwich’s defenders kept it a 1-0 game with stellar play, especially when Hall/Conard went on a power play at the end of the first period. The visitors also had a 5-on-3 power play, due to a pair of Cardinals’ penalties early in the second period, but it remained a one-goal game.
Sophomore Lexi Carino and junior Lindsay Allen started on defense and along with senior Hannah Wahl and freshman Daphne Martinez, were among some of the Cardinals athletes who contributed defensively in the non-conference matchup.
“We’ve played more difficult opponents, so it was good the game was close, but we definitely had a chance of winning,” Kunschner noted. “So, we need to start working toward that in the rest of our games.”
Awarded a penalty shot late in the second period, Greenwich knotted the score at 1-1, courtesy of Jelinek. On the penalty shot, Jelinek skated down the left side, then changed her direction, going toward the middle. From between the circles, she snapped a backhanded shot past Hall/Conard goalie Sophia Levesque’s stick, tying the score at 1-1 with 5:27 to go in the second period.
“We do a lot of shootouts in practice and we practice that a lot,” Jelinek said of her goal. “I took my time with the puck, I moved around. I knew if I could move the goalie, I would have a better shot. I was trying to get her moving, so I could go right between her glove and her knee pad and that’s exactly what I did.”
Like her teammates, Jelinek left the game feeling optimistic about the squad’s prospects in their upcoming games.
“I think we’re definitely improving as a team,” she said. “We’ve done a lot in practice. We’re trying to get more team chemistry and bonding and it’s working out. We do a lot of passing in practice and it’s working out well on the ice during games.”
On a power play following a GHS slashing penalty, Conard/Hall seized a 2-1 advantage at the 2:27 mark of the second period. From the left faceoff circle, Woods nicely slid the puck to Atsian, who was alone right in front of net. Atsian converted a one-timer, making it 2-1.
Greenwich nearly knotted the score with 1:46 remaining in the final period. A shot from the left wing hit the crossbar and appeared to hit the rear inside of the bar – the Cardinals initially reacted like it was the tying goal – but score remained in Hall/Conard’s favor.
“It was a well fought game, the girls did really, really well,” Jebb said. “Our goal was to get as least 30 shots and we were right there. We were one crossbar or post away from tying it at the end.”
“Emma Kunschner again was great in the net, she faced 35 shots, so she played very well,” Jebb continued. “I’m very proud of the way they battled. Peyton, a lot of stress with the penalty shot, and she sunk that, so that was great.”
Said Sophie Roth: “We were definitely creating more chances than the past games. I think we were definitely fighting for it and we wanted it a lot. Going into the third period, we knew we needed a momentum shift, so we did our best to get it to the goal and get as many shots as we could and that’s what we focused on.”
Lawrence sees the team raising its performance-level in the teamwork/ chemistry area.
“I think considering watching our first game from now, it’s night and day,” Lawrence said. “Our passes our getting there – one thing we’re trying to work on is our breakout – we’re doing a lot better. We have to start improving a little bit faster, so we can start winning these games.”
“One thing that was a positive was our passing,” Lawrence continued. “We are starting to get a hang of it with our teammates and linemates, we’ve been doing a lot better with that.”
Ridgefield/Danbury/Immaculate, Greenwich’s opponent in Thursday’s Winter Classic, is 4-1 so far this season, with its victories coming against Fairfield Warde/Ludlowe, Wilton/Norwalk/McMahon, Amity/Cheshire/North Haven and Scarsdale and its loss coming against New Canaan.
“We’re really excited for Ridgefield and we hope that it will be a close game and that we can come out with the win,” Sophie Roth said.
“I’m very excited for the Winter Classic,” Jelinek said. “We weren’t able to have one last year, so we’re excited to come back this year. The Skating Club is definitely a different rink and we’re all excited.”
“Ridgefield has improved a lot the past couple of years and I think it will be a good game,” Lawrence noted.
Greenwich has some time off after competing in Thursday’s Winter Classic at Greenwich Skating Club. Following that game, they will next play on Jan. 5 against Trumbull/St. Joseph at Dorothy Hamill Skating Rink. The game is scheduled to begin at 8 p.m.
“Discipline in getting the puck out, not getting penalties and finishing our shots – all the little things that are necessary in building all the pieces together, are what we need to do to be successful,” Sophie Roth said.
Categories: Greenwich High, Winter sports
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