DARIEN -- The streak is over for the New Canaan girls ice hockey team.
After reaching the FCIAC championship for nine straight years, the Rams had their season come to an end one game early as No. 3 Ridgefield came back to post a 3-2 overtime victory in the FCIAC semifinals Wednesday evening at Darien Ice Rink.
Second-seeded New Canaan (14-6-1) had a 2-1 lead going into the third period with center Catherine Granito scoring both goals for the Rams.
But Ridgefield (11-8-1) tied it 2-2 with 3:32 left in the third period on a power-play goal by Meredith Keenan, her second of the game, and won it with 7:23 left in overtime on a beautiful goal by Katie Curnan. Maddie Burns gained control of the puck deep in New Canaan's end and got it onto the stick of Ellie Garelik coming down the right side. Garelik crossed it over to the left side and Curnan buried it into an open net, sending Ridgefield into the finals for the first time since 2007.
Ridgefield lost to New Canaan twice during the regular season, including a 9-2 blowout and a frustrating 5-4 setback that saw the Tigers out-shoot the Rams 50-15. This time, the Tigers were ready.
"I figured this had to be our time," Ridgefield head coach Lauren Gibbs said. "Our team was really hitting its peak toward the end of the season. All we had left to play for was the FCIACs. We put it all out on the line. The girls just played with a lot of heart. They never quit. I think they out-worked them all game. They deserved to win, and they got it."
Ridgefield will move on to face No. 1 Darien in the FCIAC championship game Saturday at 12:20 at Terry Conners Rink in Stamford. The Rams, who lost in the finals against Darien last season after winning six titles over a dominating span of eight years, will turn their attention toward the state playoffs.
"It's hard to beat someone three times in a year, especially a team as good as Ridgefield," said New Canaan coach Rich Bulan, whose team will face Guilford in the first round of the states on Monday. "You gotta give it to them. They lost to us twice and came back and won when it counted."
Ridgefield controlled the play along the boards from the second period on and had at least five times as many quality scoring chances, finishing with a 34-28 advantage in shots. But New Canaan goalie Nathalie Deney kept things tight, making a handful of 1-on-1 stops among her 31 saves.
"She had a solid game," Bulan said. "She's been a rock for us for the two years she's been here."
But Ridgefield did get some pretty big breaks, getting a fluke goal from Keenan just 33 seconds into the first period on a soft shot from the point that dribbled through the pads of Deney. The Tigers were also on the receiving end of a generous illegal checking call that led to the tying goal in the third period.
"Usually it's not us getting those breaks," Gibbs said. "Usually those things don't happen for us. But today things just started happening for us and we turned it into a win."
New Canaan has had to make a big adjustment this season without dynamic scorer Olivia Hompe, now playing lacrosse at Princeton. Other than the two goals by Granito and two brief flurries late in the second and early in the third, the Rams never really produced any real sustained offense over the second half of the game. New Canaan had 12 shots in the first period and 15 the rest of the night.
"At the end of the day, as hard as it is, no one expected us to do anything this year," Bulan said. "But here we were with a chance to go to the finals again. It's a credit to the girls." Read Full Article
Ridgefield 3, New Canaan 2 (OT)
RIDGEFIELD 1 0 1 1--3
NEW CANAAN 1 1 0 0--2
Goals: R-Meredith Keenan 2, Katie Curnan; NC-Catherine Granito. Assists: R-Eric Ely, Maeve Reilly, Curnan, Ellie Garelik, Maddie Burns; NC-Emma Rosenstein 2, Bella Marciano. Shots: R-34, NC-28. Saves: R-Michaela Gleeson 26, NC-Nathalie Deney 31.