DARIEN -- Guilford's Lexi Cafiero skated across the ice, her head down and dejected.
Less than one minute into a tied third period, she had committed a careless slashing penalty that gave No. 4 New Canaan a critical man-advantage. Two minutes later, she rejoined her teammates on the ice, who managed to skate unscathed and kill the penalty. Less than 20 seconds after that, Cafiero rectified her error and repaid her team with a game-winning goal.
Behind Cafiero's three points, No. 5 Guilford (14-6) topped No. 4 New Canaan 3-2 Tuesday night in a state quarterfinal game at Darien Ice Rink. Catherine Granito and Mia Carroll each scored for the Rams, who failed to pick up a tying goal in the final 100 seconds despite playing with an extra attacker.
"It was a great hockey game from start to finish," said Guilford coach Gil Schaper. "My girls did a great job fighting through, responding and making plays when we had to make them."
Guilford will now face No. 1 Darien in the state semifinals on Thursday night at Darien Ice Rink. New Canaan finished its year with a record of 14-7-1, after it reeled off nine straight wins to end the regular season. Last Wednesday, the Rams fell in the FCIAC semifinals to Ridgefield by the same 3-2 margin.
"We played our hearts out," said New Canaan coach Rich Bulan. "(Tonight) wasn't for lack of trying. Truthfully, they clawed and scratched and end up 14-7-1, which is nothing to be ashamed about."
The Rams trailed briefly in the second period, following Angelica Hurteau's score at the 10:02 mark that gave the Indians a 2-1 lead. After New Canaan won the resulting faceoff at center ice, Carroll tied the game by rattling home a shot from the right point. On the goal, Emma Rosenstein collected her second of two assists on the night. She finished one behind Nicole Raccuia, who notched a game-high three.
Three minutes later, Raccuia played a key role in shutting down the first Rams power play of the game, set up by a Catherine Lawrence hooking call. Then, in the third period, the Guilford penalty kill unit stymied New Canaan once again, allowing only one shot on goal over the two minutes.
"I'm a big fitness guy," Schaper said. "I tell these girls that we don't have the numbers some of these other teams have, so they need to be ready to go on the ice for every other shift and sometimes double shifts to beat some of these teams."
Back at full strength, New Canaan failed to put away multiple loose pucks on the doorstep.
"Sometimes we get so wound up that we don't think about the smart things," Bulan said. "We just lose track, and it ends up costing us. But I think it's a sign of youth and inexperience, and now we have time to fix that."
Granito opened the night's scoring seven minutes into the contest, when she fired in a wristshot all alone from the high slot. The goal gave her 50 for the year, making her just the fourth player in New Canaan girls hockey history to accomplish the feat.
Guilford 3, New Canaan 2
GUILFORD 1 1 1--3
NEW CAANAN 1 1 0--2
Records: Guilford 14-6, New Canaan 14-7-1
Goals: G--Lexi Cafiero 2, Angelica Hurteau; NC-- Catherine Granito, Mia Carroll; Assists: G--Nicole Raccuia 3, Lexi Cafiero; NC--Emma Rosenstein 2; Goalies: G--Edy Moritz (26); NC--Nathalie Deney (16); Shots: G--19; NC--28