Hats off to Sophie Roth and the Greenwich High School girls ice hockey team.
Roth recorded a hat trick for the Cardinals, who earned their first win of the season today at an event they’ve experienced plenty of success at in the past – the Winter Classic at Greenwich Skating Club.
A senior captain, Sophie Roth set the tone with a hat trick and senior goalie Emma Kunschner made 34 saves in Greenwich’s 6-4 victory over FCIAC foe Ridgefield-Danbury-Immaculate before a big crowd at Greenwich Skating Club’s outdoor rink.
“A great reward for a lot of hard work and we found the net, which is something that was missing before,” Greenwich coach Doug Jebb said of the Cardinals’ triumph. “We had some very good shots that would have been goals against any other opponent. So it was nice to break out and get the six goals.”
Three of those goals came from the stick of Sophie Roth, who completed her hat trick toward the end of the third period for the Cardinals (1-4).
“It was really good, we’ve been coming off a couple of losses, so it’s good to get the ‘W’ and it was definitely a team effort, which was really nice,” Roth said. “It was nice to get that first win and for it to be the Winter Classic was very nice. Watching my sister play these games (older sister Delaney, a 2021 GHS graduate) – they’ve always been very good to watch, so be able to play in it was nice.”
Greenwich led the Ridgefield-Danbury-Immaculate co-op squad, 2-1 after the first period, then outscored the visitors, 4-0, in the second period to open a 6-1 advantage. Senior forward/captain Peyton Jelinek, senior forward MK Savio and senior forward/captain Caroline Lawrence tallied one goal apiece for the Cards, who opened their seasons with losses against Guilford co-op, Darien, New Canaan and Hall/Conard.
“I think we played a lot better together,” said Jelinek, who also assisted on a goal. “We were looking up and looking out for each other. We really emphasized generated things in the offensive zone. So, we went into the game knowing we had to shoot every puck on net and hopefully, it will go in.”
Ridgefield-Danbury-Immaculate crept back into the game with three unanswered goals during the third period. Junior defender Delaney Sheppard, sophomore forward Brianna Boulanger and sophomore forward Dakota Smith each scored in the third period for Ridgefield co-op, which closed to within 6-4.
However, Greenwich held on for the win, as Kunschner made several key saves in the matchup’s closing minutes.
“We’re a resilient team when we go down,” Ridgefield coach Peter Bafundo said. “We’ve found a way to come back in a lot of games. We are trying to get them to start a few games like that. It’s a young group, so it’s going to take a while for us to jell as a team. It’s a good group, they all enjoy playing with each other. But we need to figure out a way to handle adversity a little earlier.”
Jebb was impressed with how his squad handled adverse situations.
“Our team showed composure when they could have collapsed,” Jebb said. “As the Ridgefield coach said, they’ve somehow put it together in the third period. They did the same thing the day before against SWS (Stamford-Westhill-Staples) and came back from a 4-0 deficit to make it 4-3, so they are a tough, tough team and we battled. It was good to get the win, now we want to stack them one on top of the other.”
Jelinek and Savio registered shots on goal early in the opening period, then Sophie Roth converted a shot from the left wing with 9:15 remaining in the period, giving the Cards a 1-0 lead.
“My first goal, I took the puck wide,” Roth said. “I wanted to get a good shot off, because the goalie was really good, so we wanted to take as many shots as we can.”
Kunschner kept the score 1-0 with several impressive saves, before the visitors knotted it at 1-1. Freshman forward Kiara Drake put home a shot off a rebound at the 5:50 mark of the first period for Ridgefield-Danbury-Immaculate.
Putting plenty of traffic in front of net, the Cardinals took a 2-1 edge on Jelinek’s tip-in goal with 1:10 to go in the opening period. Sophie Roth, who had the initial shot on goal, was credited with the assist.
“I think we played really well, especially in the offensive zone, we were generating a lot of passes and shots on net,” Jelinek noted. “We worked really well together today.”
The second period belonged to Greenwich, which gave their following at Greenwich Skating Club a lot to cheer about. Sophie Roth put a shot past Ridgefield-Danbury-Immaculate freshman goalie Casey Rosenberg, beating her to her glove side 45 seconds into the second period, making it 3-1. Senior defender Hannah Wahl assisted on Roth’s second tally.
Savio then knocked the puck in as it deflected off Rosenberg’s pads off a shot from Jelinek, giving the host Cards a 4-1 lead with 13:35 still to play in the second period. Lawrence added a goal at the period’s 7:50 mark and Roth capped her hat trick with a goal with 2:50 to play in the second period.
“I was really tired, but I wanted a goal really badly and we needed it,” Lawrence said of her goal. “I just went down the ice, took a shot and it went in. Today, our passing went really well.”
The first four games saw GHS manage to tally just four goals, so putting six goals on the board was a pleasant sight for the team.
“We’ve worked on being aggressive in the offensive zone and we took a lot of good shots,” Lawrence noted. “One of our goals is making sure our shots are on net and they went in.”
Said Jebb: “What we’re trying to make sure is that we are getting shots on net. We want to create unstructured situations – that’s what rebounds do – they’re unstructured situations and we did a great job today. Hats off today, it was a great victory.”
Ridgefield-Danbury-Immaculate gathered some momentum in the final period with three straight goals. Sophomore Sophia Bianco, junior Mia D’Andraia, Sophia Dadd and freshman Kiara Drake each had assists for the visitors in the third period. But Greenwich finished the last five minutes of the FCIAC game strong to break into the win column.
Kunschner was supported by the effective play of defenders Lindsay Allen, Wahl, sophomore Lexi Carino and freshman Daphne Martinez.
“I thought we all worked together,” Allen said. “We’ve been waiting for this, so I’m happy. In the locker room we were talking about how we deserved this and if we all worked together like we practice, then we’ll get it and we did. I think it was really good feeling to get the win and from here on now we’re going to want to have this feeling again.”
Greenwich certainly welcomes competing outdoors at the Winter Classic at Greenwich Skating Club. The Cardinals are 4-0 in the special event, winning in 2017, 2018, 2019 and today.
“I love it, it’s such a fun crowd out here and it’s exciting just to play,” Lawrence said. “I think we’re on our way up and this game was the start of it – we’re ready.”
“It’s always fun to play in it, we have a lot of people here supporting us, it’s a super fun game,” Jelinek said.
Greenwich played the game with senior Kelsey Roth, also one of the team’s captains, in mind. Kelsey underwent knee surgery yesterday and will soon begin her rehabilitation process. She played in the team’s first two games of the season, before injuring her knee.
“The team all came together and decided to play this game for her,” Sophie Roth said of her twin sister Kelsey. “Not only has she been a great leader for the team, she has been one of my biggest supporters. So, her not being out on the ice with me has been tough. But I know she is always cheering me on.”
Greenwich is in action again on Jan. 5 against Trumbull/St. Joseph at Dorothy Hamill Skating Rink.