Greenwich knew it would have to play a near perfect game in order to defeat top-seeded Darien in the semifinal-round of the FCIAC Girls Ice Hockey Tournament last night, but that task became even more challenging when the Blue Wave exhibited exceptional puck movement right from the start.
“Today, we moved the puck probably better than any game we have all year,” Darien coach Jamie Tropsa said following the tournament’s semifinals. “These girls wanted to get back to the finals and came back fired up right away from the start of the game.”
For the Cardinals, facing the Blue Wave on a night when, as Tropsa noted, they’re passing was on point, proved to be a daunting uphill battle.
Fourth-seeded Greenwich’s season came to an end with a 5-0 loss to top-seeded Darien in the FCIAC Tournament semifinals at Darien Ice House. The Blue Wave (17-1-1, 8-0 FCIAC) advanced to Saturday’s 4:40 p.m. FCIAC Tournament final, where they will play second-seeded rival New Canaan. The defending FCIAC champion Rams moved on to the title game by edging third-seeded Stamford/Westhill/Staples in triple overtime, 2-1.
Darien last won the FCIAC Tournament title in 2020, defeating New Canaan in the championship game. Wednesday night’s loss marked the Cardinals’ third setback against the Blue Wave this season and they were shut out in each game.
“The girls battled hard,” said Greenwich coach Doug Jebb, who concluded his first season at the helm. “That’s a very deep, talented Darien team. They’ve only lost one game all year, so credit to them and their coaching staff. They’re very deep, so it almost requires a perfect game.”
Greenwich finished its season with an overall record of 6-14-1 and did not qualify for the state tournament. Four of the Cardinals’ losses came by one goal, as they lost four 2-1 decisions.
Darien seized a 3-0 first-period lead on Greenwich, then extended their advantage to 5-0 following the second period.
“Our girls never quit,” Jebb said. “It was 5-zip going into the third period and we held them to no goals, so I’m very proud of that. All the seniors, we have nine of them, they practiced and played their hearts out. Hopefully, they’ll look back on the season with fond memories, they competed from the first minute until the last minute. I’m very proud of being of them and I’m very proud of being the coach of Greenwich girls varsity hockey.”
Senior forward Chelsea Donovan recorded two goals, while sophomore forward Sarah Kellogg and junior forward Maggie Bellissimo registered two goals and one assist apiece for Darien, who spent a lot of time in Greenwich’s zone.
“That’s our M.O. to put a lot of pressure on people and get pucks to net,” Tropsa said. “We try to screen the goalie, their goalie is outstanding, so it’s the only way we’re going to beat her. We’re going to beat her on rebounds and by taking her vision away and we did a good job of that.”
Cardinals senior goalie Emma Kunschner was kept busy in what was her final game for GHS. She registered 30 saves, while facing shots from all angles.
“Our goalie Emma, played fantastic,” Jebb said. “When you don’t get much goal support it puts pressure on everyone. Of our losses, nine of them we scored one or fewer goals. That puts a lot of pressure on our goalie.”
Applying pressure in the Cardinals’ zone, the Blue Wave took a 1-0 lead with 11:42 remaining in the first period. Donovan tapped in a rebound for the game’s first goal, while junior Kate Brown, who had the initial shot on goal, was credited with the assist.
At the 9:20 mark of the opening period, Darien added to its lead. Donovan converted a shot from the right wing off a pass from Bellissimo, making it 2-0. With 1:49 still left in the first period, Darien scored shortly after a faceoff, as Brown snapped a shot by Kunschner, giving the Blue Wave a 3-0 advantage.
The home team kept the pressure on the Cardinals during the second period, resulting in two more tallies.
“That was good, it was something we talked about all week, keeping that pressure on,” Tropsa said. “As the game went on, we were able to get a lot of people in the mix on the ice, so that was nice.”
Junior Lindsay Allen, senior Hannah Wahl and sophomore Lexi Carino were busy throughout on defense, as they tried to keep the puck away from Kunschner and clear it out of the Cards’ zone.
Darien, which has posted eight shutouts so far this season, got 13 saves from junior goalie Jamison Maher. The Blue Wave held a 35-13 shots-on-goal advantage on the Cardinals.
“Our team has an amazing senior group and senior captains,” Tropsa noted. “They are one of the hardest working groups we’ve had collectively from a senior group. I’m very happy for them.”
New Canaan defeated Darien for the FCIAC title in 2022, so Saturday’s final will be a rematch between the longtime rivals.
“We’re excited, it’s going to be a battle for sure,” Tropsa said. “I’m excited for them, it’s going to be a good game.”
The matchup marked the final game for Greenwich’s nine seniors. The seniors included: Nina Clark, Peyton Jelinek, Emma Kunschner, Caroline Lawrence, MK Savio, Sophie Roth, Kelsey Roth, Rylan Sepot and Hannah Wahl.
“I think we’ve got a good future ahead of us,” Jebb said. “We’ve got a ways to go to bridge the gap between Darien and us, but we’re learning a lot. What’s great about everyone in that locker room is that they all supported each other. It was a great team effort.”
“Coaching this team was a wonderful experience for me,” Jebb continued. I couldn’t have asked for anything more from the administration, the school and the parents.”
Categories: Greenwich High, Winter sports
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