NEW CANAAN — For New Canaan girls hockey coach Rich Bulan, the offseason seemed as if it lasted a lifetime.
Rams off to solid start
BIGGEST WIN: Dec. 23, 2-1 over Darien.
GAMES TO WATCH: Monday at Greenwich; Jan. 20 at ETB; Jan. 24 vs. Darien; Feb. 12 vs. Greenwich.
NOTABLE: Thus far, New Canaan has notched five wins over Top 10 teams.
QUOTABLE: “We always have a family type atmosphere and the upperclassmen buy in and adapt and feel important. That’s been a big key for the younger players developing as quickly as they have and making such an impact.” -New Canaan coach Rich Bulan
-Anthony E. Parelli
Sure, he’s an assistant on the Rams softball team, active in youth leagues and works at Saxe Middle school. Still, he couldn’t help but be eager for the high school winter season, where he thought his team would be one of the best in the state.
Bulan has been around a long time, and he knows talent when he sees it. So, New Canaan’s 8-1 mark at the midway point of the season validates his optimism.
“It’s a great start,” Bulan said. “We have a little ways to go still, we’re still young. Otherwise, I’m thrilled with the results and thrilled that the chemistry has allowed the players to develop. ... I still think we can even get better.”
Senior captain Liz McCarthy has seen her share of success in her time at New Canaan, but hasn’t seen a team as deep or as talented as this one.
“For sure,” McCarthy said when asked if it’s the best team she’s been a part of. “We have a lot more depth than we had in the past. Since I’ve been here we would run only a couple lines and three or four defensemen, but this year depth is definitely our strong suit.”
That depth has come through an influx of freshmen — eight of the nine new faces on the team are ninth-graders. It’s been up to McCarthy and the rest of the seniors to integrate the new players with the returnees.
So far, so good.
Whether in success or turmoil on the ice, one thing Bulan has maintained in his locker rooms is a sense of family. That bond is what he and McCarthy both credit for the team’s ability to jell so quickly.
“In the locker room before a game or at practice, we have a lot of team bonding,” McCarthy said. “Or on the drive from the high school to the rink, you get to bond with a lot of players. We have a lot of team dinners and team movie night. We even had one team sleepover and had a dance competition, so it’s a lot of little things to make sure the team has good camaraderie.”
No position group more embodies that camaraderie than the goalies. Kara Fahey is a sophomore who has more than earned her spot after coming in last year with no hockey experience and starting every game, earning All-FCIAC honorable mention. Fahey has been splitting time with Blythe Novick, a talented freshman.
In Bulan’s eyes, the goalie competition has only made both better.
“Kara is 5-0 and Blythe is 3-1, it’s actually been going really well,” Bulan said. “They’re both really competitive, but at the same time helping each other a lot. It’s been a friendly competition. They both want to play very badly, but they’re both there for each other and that’s another thing that’s made it easy.”Read Full Article
The Rams have done plenty of winning through the first half, but it’s their only loss that gave Bulan the most hope.
In its second game, New Canaan fell 3-2 to the Amity Co-op in overtime, despite missing several players due to illness.
Seeing his shorthanded team take one of the best teams in the state to the brink showed the team’s capability.
“It was like, how good can we be?” Bulan said. “Then we beat Darien and six days later beat No. 1 Hamden and Top-10 Simsbury twice. It was an eye-opener that we can create our own destiny, if we play well we can do some good things.”
Beating Darien on Dec. 23 was one of those good things, especially considering that’s a feat none of the seniors have accomplished in their high school careers.
“It was a really big win for us,” McCarthy said. “They’re still a strong team, so it proves what we’re capable of this season and also helps the freshmen realize how intense the high school season can be.”
That intensity isn’t going to calm down over the next two months with two matchups against Greenwich and an encore with Darien.
That’s made the Rams work that much harder.
“During practice we’re pushing ourselves and pushing each other,” McCarthy said. “One big thing is working on finishing and getting rebounds. We’ve been getting a lot of shots, but the thing we struggled with most is putting away game in the first or second period. Usually, we come out the third period really strong, but we’re working on making sure we come out like that from the drop of the puck.”