STAMFORD -- Don't look now, but the Rams are rolling at exactly the right time.
Led by Emma Rosenstein's first career hat trick, the New Canaan girls hockey team won its eighth straight with a 5-1 victory over Wilton Friday night at Terry Conners Ice Rink. The Rams' win secured them the no. 4 seed in the state tournament and a final regular season record of 14-5-1. New Canaan goaltender Nathalie Deney snagged 40 saves on her Senior Night and finished the year by giving up just eight goals in as many games.
"I'm so very proud of these kids," said New Canaan coach Rich Bulan. "This season was supposed to be about New Canaan falling off and not being as good. They've earned this. I am so proud of them."
The Rams must now wait to see whether they will oppose Ridgefield or Wilton in their next game on Wednesday in the FCIAC semifinals. The Warriors' only score on Friday night came during the infancy of the second period when Perri Blicht knocked in a power play goal.
"It was a very well-timed shot," Deney said. "After every goal, I always reflect on what happened and what I could have done better. On that one, they just worked the power play well ... I didn't fret too much about that one."
Outside of Blicht's score, however, this one was all New Canaan.
Less than four minutes into the game, Catherine Granito took hold of a rebound inside the low crease and flipped it back-handed for a score. Moments later, Rosenstein continued with another goal on the doorstep, after Mia Carroll had crashed in and fired quickly off Warrior goalie Brooke Jonsson.
Granito's goal put her at 47 for the year, while Rosenstein's three scores produced a personal total of five from her last two games. The Rams' 2-0 lead lasted for 14 minutes, until Wilton struck on their first power play.
Following Blicht's score, Carroll answered with an unassisted goal down the right wing capped off by a nifty finish at the 7:56 mark. Then, two minutes later, Rosenstein extended New Canaan's edge to three on a breakaway effort that ended in a puck squeaking through the five-hole.
Prior to the middle frame closing, Deney denied a one-on-one scoring opportunity for Warrior forward Nicole Lue, who sped all the way down from the opposite blue line to take her shot. Explosive offense and top-notch goaltending have been hallmarks of the Rams' recent run, one that Rosenstein says stems from more focused practices.
"We've been working harder in practice and been getting more focused than we were in the beginning of the season," she explained. "We're really just starting to click together and you can see it on the ice."
There was no score in the final period until the clock ticked under two minutes to go, at which point the junior forward cemented her hat trick with another goal from just feet away.
Over their winning streak, New Canaan has outscored its opponents 32-8, a figure that coach Bulan is extremely happy with. But on this Senior Night, there was no one he could stand prouder of than his lone senior, Deney.
"We don't do any of this without a goaltender," he said. "And she has been far away from anything that we could have expected."
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