Rams’ slow start proves costly

Stamford Advocate (Sunday) - - Sports - By Dave Ste­wart

Jen­nifer Kelly and many of her Green­wich team­mates be­gan their hockey ca­reers play­ing at the Green­wich Skat­ing Club. Years later, they still look right at home at that rink.

Kelly started a bar­rage of three goals in the first seven min­utes and the Green­wich de­fense then held off a come­back bid as the Car­di­nals de­feated the New Canaan Rams, 3-2, in the sec­ond Win­ter Clas­sic out­doors at the Green­wich Skat­ing Club on Sat­ur­day.

The con­test was a re­match of last year’s FCIAC fi­nal — also won by Green­wich 2-1 — but the roots for the Car­di­nals go back much fur­ther.

“I started play­ing here when I was a Mini Mite,” Kelly said. “This rink is tremen­dous. If I could play all my games here, I would. There’s a lot of tra­di­tion for all of us that have played here and com­ing out here to play in this game — it doesn’t get much bet­ter than this.”

Green­wich (4-0 over­all, 3-0 FCIAC), which has a four-game win­ning streak against the Rams, has now won the first two Win­ter Clas­sics, hav­ing scored a 6-1 rout of Amity in last year’s con­test. Kelly scored five goals in that one.

The quick start against New Canaan was atyp­i­cal for the Cards.

“The girls were def­i­nitely fired up and ready to play,” head coach Alex Lerchen said. “We were ready to pounce. Typ­i­cally we’re not a fast-start­ing team so it was nice to see us pop three in from the start.”

The loss was the first of the sea­son for New Canaan (5-1, 3-1), which ended up with a 31-13 ad­van­tage in shots on goal. The first pe­riod hole was just too deep for the Rams.

“It’s like we didn’t even get off the bus,” New Canaan head coach Rich Bu­lan said. “We looked like

we for­got how to play hockey. I don’t know if it was the out­side game or what but we just didn’t look good. Give Green­wich credit — they jumped on it and took a 3-0 lead. They won the first pe­riod and we won the sec­ond and third, but they got more in the first, so that’s it.”

Green­wich’s sopho­more goalie Han­nah Gold­en­berg racked up 29 saves, with de­fense­men Ha­ley Duffy, Katie Piotrzkowski, Syd­ney Orszu­lak and Tess Mar­ciano ef­fec­tively bot­tling up the Rams’ at­tack.

“She’s un­flap­pable,” Lerchen said of Gold­en­berg. “She’s re­ally strong in the net and she sees the puck re­ally well. There were a lot of de­flec­tions to­day and the puck was bounc­ing all over, but she han­dled it re­ally well. She had an out­stand­ing game.”

Kelly started the scor­ing with a quick goal just 1:08 af­ter the open­ing drop, skat­ing through the de­fense, fak­ing to the right and then go­ing left to beat Ram goalie Blythe Novick (10 saves).

Orszu­lak and De­laney Roth then tal­lied at 2:43 and 6:28 for the 3-0 lead.

“We’re not re­ally a first pe­riod team up un­til this game,” Kelly said. “We were re­ally ex­cited, re­ally pumped up, and we knew this was a re­ally good team and a piv­otal game for us. We were both un­de­feated and we wanted to make a state­ment. Com­ing out and scor­ing three goals was tremen­dous. It set the tone for the game.”

New Canaan had a 12-5 shots ad­van­tage in the sec­ond pe­riod when the mo­men­tum shifted. The Rams’ Quincy Con­nell spun and flipped the puck high past Gold­en­berg with 8:17 re­main­ing in the sec­ond to cut the deficit to 3-1. Gold­en­berg was solid with 11 saves in the pe­riod to keep the lead at two.

“We talked about not let­ting up,” Kelly said of the pres­sure. “Al­ways send­ing two re­ally hard on the forecheck and that worked re­ally well for us. They came into our zone like a bat out of hell, so we just have to re­cip­ro­cate that in our of­fen­sive zone.”

New Canaan’s pres­sure con­tin­ued into the third, and the Rams made the fi­nal three min­utes tense when fresh­man Kaleigh Har­den scored top shelf off a re­bound with 2:47 re­main­ing.

The Rams pulled Novick from the net with a lit­tle more than a minute re­main­ing, but couldn’t net the equal­izer as Green­wich took the game.

“It could’ve turned into a huge blowout or it could’ve been a bat­tle and I was happy to see that we bat­tled,” Bu­lan said. “As young as we are, we don’t ever feel like we’re out of a game. We’re al­ways go­ing to try and play our game, dump it down deep, play hard, and play New Canaan hockey. We suc­ceeded for the most part.”

For the Cards, it was an­other Clas­sic win.

“This is such a fun place to play and the girls re­ally en­joy it,” Lerchen said. “A lot of them grew up play­ing here in the youth pro­gram. It’s good to have them come back here and have their friends watch them play in a dif­fer­ent kind of set­ting.”

PLAYER OF THE GAME

Han­nah Gold­en­berg, Green­wich. The sopho­more goalie was un­der fire from New Canaan’s high-pow­ered of­fense for much of the game and made 29 saves to earn the vic­tory.

QUOTABLE

“We have a short bench, but ev­ery­one’s tal­ented and we take pride in what we can do. We can throw out two lines or three lines and there’s never a drop off. We’re a much tighter-knit group than I think the big­ger teams are and that works to our ad­van­tage.” — Green­wich co-cap­tain Jen­nifer Kelly

Dave Ste­wart / Hearst Con­necti­cut Me­dia

Green­wich’s Jen­nifer Kelly (18) and New Canaan’s An­gel­ica Meg­da­nis col­lide near cen­ter ice dur­ing the Win­ter Clas­sic at the Green­wich Skat­ing Club on Sat­ur­day.

Dave Ste­wart/Hearst Con­necti­cut Me­dia photo

Green­wich goalie Han­nah Gold­en­berg stops a shot by New Canaan’s Shea Hobbs as Katie Piotrzkowski (15) de­fends dur­ing the Win­ter Clas­sic at the Green­wich Skat­ing Club on Sat­ur­day.

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