GREENWICH — Ridgefield proved how dangerous it can be when given opportunities.
The Tigers scored five of their eight goals off the power play, including three during a three-minute stretch in the second period, and they stifled the Greenwich attack in locking up a decisive 8-1 victory over the Cardinals in the FCIAC boys hockey championship tonight at Dorothy Hamill Rink.
It was top-seeded Ridgefield’s third straight conference crown and the Tigers kept their undefeated record intact at 22-0.
“It’s something we work on a lot and rely on it,” Ridgefield coach Shaun Gallagher said of his team’s prowess on the power play. “If you want to win big games you have to make teams pay when they take penalties and we definitely came through tonight.”
Greenwich (11-10-2), the No. 6 seed, wasn’t the only team that had players in the penalty box. The two teams combined for 28 penalties, 14 by Greenwich, including a five-minute major and player disqualification, totaling 70 penalty minutes combined.
“Both coaches would’ve liked to have been a little more disciplined,” Gallagher said.
Ridgefield capitalized right off the bat in the first period, when Will Forrest, who finished with a hat trick and was named most valuable player, took advantage of a 5-on-3 opportunity with a goal from Kees van Wees and Matt Walker 2:08 into the contest.
van Wees, who lit the scoreboard for four goals and added three assists, scored on a power play from Walker and Forrest with 11:33 on the clock in the first.
“We never really had a chance to get any momentum going,” Greenwich coach Chris Rurak said. “It was penalty after penalty after penalty and it was going both ways. It’s going to be hard for any team in the state to match power plays with them.”
Before the period ended, Ridgefield would take a 3-0 lead. The Tigers’ third goal was actually set up by a power play and as it ended, Forrest found the back of the net again off an assist from Nicky Cullinan with 3:53 remaining.
“This means a lot,” Forrest said. “The FCIAC is such a competitive division and to win it three times in a row is special.
“We caught them napping (on the first goal),” he added. “When you come out fast you win the game. We proved it and got them on their heels early.”
Gallagher said of Forrest, “He’s been great all year.”
The Cardinals finally broke through in the second period when Matthew Davey scored off the power play, with assists from Ryan Columbo and Nic Pelletier-Martinelli (10:16), but they couldn’t capitalize on the momentum because two minutes later a Greenwich player was called for hitting from behind and was subsequently ejected.
“We get one on the power play then we shoot ourselves in the foot and everybody gets emotional and they’re high school kids so emotions get the better of them,” Rurak said.
That led to a scoring outburst by the Tigers, with Forrest scoring from the left wing off an assist by van Wees to put them ahead 4-1 (7:04). Ridgefield added three more goals, from Cullinan, with van Wees and Brady McSpedon assisting (5:28); van Wees, with Walker (three assists) assisting (4:61); and van Wees again, with Simon van Wees and Cullinan assisting (1:51) to give the Tigers a commanding 7-1 lead.
“We work on it (the power play) in every practice,” Kees van Wees said. “We played very well, the power play was clicking and everyone was clicking. It was a great all-around team win.”
Ridgefield added one more goal in the third off the stick of Kees van Wees, from Owen Luft and Logan Chang (8:35).
Ridgefield goalie Sean Gordon made 25 saves and Greenwich’s Charles Zolin and Ben Nash combined for 21 saves.
Gallagher said his players have worked hard to win their third consecutive conference crown and even though they don’t talk about it, an unblemished record.
“They don’t think about it (being undefeated) they just play hockey,” Gallagher said.