Rams’ slow start proves costly
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.
“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
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.
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.