Three FCIAC championships, two state titles and extraordinary offensive prowess is a good summation of the New Canaan girls hockey team over the past three years.
According to head coach Rich Bulan, however, the extraordinary amount of time put in by his players may be the one aspect of his team that tends to be overlooked.
"They always work hard. One of the things that people who are outside our area all think is that we just have a ton of talent, which we do year in and year out," Bulan said. "But they work hard. We're young and we're not as deep as we've been in the past, but some of the girls that I knew would get better, I didn't expect them to step up as much as they have."
Then again, having enormous talent on the roster year after year doesn't hurt either. New Canaan returns a wealth of talent from last season's FCIAC championship team, not the least of which is Olivia Hompe, the state's all-time leading goal-scorer.
"We're working with some new combinations and new stuff on the powerplay and everything, but I'm really excited," Hompe said. "A lot of girls have stepped up."
"I think we just need to gel as a team for game situations," Carroll said. "Most of us haven't played in a game for months now, so I think just getting to know each other's strengths and weaknesses and working together."
New Canaan has won five out of a possible six championships over the last three years. The Rams appeared primed to go a perfect six-for-six, but then something out of the ordinary happened: They were defeated 3-2 in the state championship game by Hall/Conard, despite rallying out of a 2-0 hole to pull even at 2-2.
"There's more motivation than ever after last year's loss. There's a lot of competition out there and we want to do the best we can," Carroll said. "Every year we want to win states and FCIACs. We have girls who worked really hard over the summer."
Bulan provided a tentative lineup for Opening Night on Monday, Dec. 10 against Trumbull at the Shelton Ice Rink at 7:30 p.m.
The top line will feature Catherine Granito centering Hompe and Ripley, the second line is Lauren Williams centering Emma Rosenstein and MacKenzie Lewis and the third line is Kylie Glover and Kit Clemente centered by either Emma Leslie or Kerry Nowacki.
Last year's starting goalie Britt Gardella was lost to graduation, but Bulan believes he's got two players capable of getting the job done between the pipes: Junior Nathalie Deney and sophomore Sarah Klearman. Bulan expects both netminders to log serious minutes, perhaps even in the same game.
As a marked team across the state, New Canaan isn't likely to make the mistake of taking any opponent lightly, but naturally there were a few games that stood out to the captains.
"We're definitely ready for the first game. We practice a lot, so we're excited to get out there. We've been working on our powerplay a lot and we're excited to get that out there," Ripley said. "Obviously, Darien is always a favorite. We can't wait to play Hall/Conard and get a little revenge. Simsbury is always fun and then also Ridgefield."
"I think Darien's always a good one. We played a lot of close games with Ridgefield last year too. And upstate, Simsbury and Hall," Hompe said. "We obviously want to defend the FCIAC title and the state title is something we want to win back as seniors. That loss last year was really tough, and I think it's motivated a lot of girls in the offseason, so I'm excited to see what we can do."
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