Thursday’s game between rivals Greenwich and Darien marked the fifth time the FCIAC hockey foes faced each other in the Winter Classic and like previous meetings, this encounter was a physical game that hung in the balance right until the end.
And like the two previous matchups, the Blue Wave made enough plays to outlast the Cardinals and claim the Winter Classic trophy.
A first-period goal by senior forward Bobby Whittaker proved to be the difference for Darien, which maintained its one-goal lead throughout, behind strong goaltending from junior Quinn Kreppein in a hard-fought 1-0 victory over Greenwich in the fifth Winter Classic held at Greenwich Skating Club’s outdoor rink. Darien leads the Winter Classic series, 3-2.
The game, played before a large crowd, featured solid, hustling play from both squads and saw Darien raise its record to a perfect 4-0 on the young season.
“I thought it was a great game,” Darien coach Mac Budd said. “We knew we were going to be in for a battle. I told the guys all week, throw out the records. It’s a good old fashioned FCIAC battle between Greenwich and Darien and to add to that the atmosphere of the Winter Classic. We knew it was going to be a heck of a game and that’s exactly what we got.”
While the Blue Wave are unbeaten, the Cardinals are looking for their first win of the season. Greenwich is 0-4, with its prior losses coming against formidable foes such as Fairfield Prep, Xavier and North Haven.
“I’m proud of the way we came out, we battled hard,” Greenwich senior forward/captain Matthew Trimmer said. “That’s a good Darien team. They have a solid group of players. They do the little things right, they’re a hard-nosed hockey team and we knew we had to come out and match that energy, which I think we did.”
Junior goalie Quinn Kreppein made 23 saves in the winning effort for the Blue Wave. Senior captain Cole Studwell turned away 31 shots for the Cardinals, who are hoping get in gear offensively. The Cards have scored five goals through their first four games.
“Anytime there’s a 1-0 game, I think both teams played well,” Greenwich coach Jack Duffy said. “We just couldn’t bang one home. Early in the year, it takes a lot of hard work to score on a power play. Some guys have to take it upon themselves to be determined to bury a couple and that’s what we need as a team to get going.”
Darien, which posted a 4-2 win over Greenwich in the 2021 Winter Classic, after trailing 1-0, outshot the Cardinals, 11-5, in the first period, though Greenwich registered quality shots on goal late in the period, with the shots coming from senior forward Will Duncan and junior forward Jackson Price.
The Blue Wave tested Studwell with five shots over the first five minutes of action, then the Cards went on a power play at the 7:25 mark of the period, but the game remained scoreless. With less than one minute left in the opening period, Darien applied a lot of pressure in Greenwich’s zone, putting several players in front of the net. Getting his stick on a rebound in front, Whittaker tapped the puck past Studwell, giving the Blue Wave a 1-0 lead with just 31.3 seconds left in the opening period.
“Our goal was scored on a tip in front and that’s they way we are going to have to score goals,” Budd said. “We tell our guys, ‘you’re going to have to play inside, get in front of the net,’ and fortunately, that was enough.”
Indeed, GHS came close to going into intermission tied at 0-0.
“We played very well,” Duffy said. “Both teams played hard, we’d love to have that last 30 seconds of the first period back. We’re still trying to learn that we have to play 45 minutes of hockey. We played a lot more tonight, the boys are pretty angry with this loss and hopefully, it will make us better.”
In the second period, senior defensemen Peter Lewis and Alex McGarvey snapped shots on goal from the point and senior forward George Bria applied pressure in Darien’s zone, but the Cardinals didn’t score the equalizer. Greenwich also forced a power play with 8:28 to go in the second stanza, but Darien’s penalty kill was on point.
“Fortunately, we cut down on our penalties, we’ve been taking a lot of penalties, so we’ve had a lot of time to work on our PK and our PK was good,” Budd noted. “We had some good zone time at points, but they had some good zone time too. It was a hard, physical battle and that’s what we get when we play in the Winter Classic against Greenwich.”
Sophomore Gardiner Ely helped paced Darien’s solid defensive effort, while senior forward Tommy Branca, one of the team’s captains, was a spark up front.
“Our defense played well, we did not face many shots on the power play, but the defense played well,” Kreppein said. “Our defense did a good job of keeping them out of the slot and put them on the side. I like our chemistry, we’re rolling four lines and our defense is very good.”
The Blue Wave have yielded only five goals in four games and Kreppein has notched two shutouts.
“He did an excellent job, Kreppein played great, he has some history here, so we were happy for him,” Budd said. “There were several occasions when we needed a big save and he came through for us in a big way.”
Studwell kept it a one-goal game with numerous impressive saves, while senior Alex McGarvey, senior Matthew Rurak, freshman Boden Farmer and senior Andrew Walko provided strong play on from the blue line.
“It’s a step in the right direction,” said Studwell, one of the Cards’ captains. “We have a lot of improvements to make, myself included, but it was a very good step in the right direction and we’ll get there.”
Studwell acknowledged the tough schedule the Cardinals have faced thus far.
“It’s great to play these really good teams early on the season, it’s a good test,” Studwell noted. “We’re getting better each game and eventually we are going to put it together and play 45 minutes of good hockey.”
Greenwich’s netminder was pleased with how the squad performed against Darien’s power play.
“Later on in the second period, we took a tough penalty and the penalty killers did a phenomenal job of working hard,” Studwell said. “I couldn’t be prouder of them.”
Greenwich also faces challenging opponents next week. The Cards host New Canaan on Jan. 3 and Hamden on Jan. 7, before St. Joseph visits Dorothy Hamill Skating Rink on Jan. 9.
“The puck didn’t bounce our way a lot of times and they got a bounce that went their way in the first,” said Trimmer, who was active throughout, up front. “Other than that, it was a hard-nosed match, so we have to bear down more if we are going to get one.”
“I have full confidence in this team, the record doesn’t look pretty, but we’re not defined by our record,” Trimmer continued. “We’re going to go out and battle throughout this 20-game season and beyond in the playoffs. That’s our goal, it’ll always be our goal.”
Darien plays Fairfield Warde-Ludlowe at Wonderland of Ice on Jan. 4.
“We were worried with developing our younger players at the beginning of the year and how they would fit in with the style of play that we have,” Whittaker said. “Everybody is jelling together and it’s coming together better than we could have imagined. Tonight, I think we did as best as we could to keep them outside of us and we kept the puck deep as soon as we got over the red.”
Categories: Greenwich High, Winter sports
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