New Canaan boys hockey team eliminates Greenwich in FCIAC quarterfinals
STAMFORD -- Since losing to rival Darien in the FCIAC semifinals last year, getting back to, and winning, the conference championship game has been the New Canaan High School boys hockey team's main goal this season.
Thanks to their dynamic duo, the Rams moved a step closer toward reaching both of their goals on Saturday.
Continuing their standout seasons, Harry Stanton registered two goals and one assist, while Puck Richardson had one goal and two assists for third-seeded New Canaan in its 4-2 win over sixth-seeded Greenwich in the quarterfinals of the FCIAC Tournament.
The Rams (13-6-2) advanced to Wednesday's semifinals, where they will face St. Joseph.
"We lost last year in the semifinals, so we wanted to come back with a vengeance this year and make it back to the finals," said Stanton, a junior forward. "We knew we had a tough game today and we couldn't afford to look too far ahead."
"Our team competed hard and didn't quit," said Cardinals coach Bob Russel, who saw his squad qualify for the conference tournament after missing it a year ago. "This was the first time a lot of players in this group have been in the playoffs, so it was a great experience for them."
The Rams kept the pressure on for long stretches during the opening period and struck first, scoring at the 6:01 mark. Stanton sent a pass from behind to Richardson, who put a one-timer past Greenwich sophomore goalie Bryan Archino, giving New Canaan a 1-0 lead.
"In our last two games against Darien and Notre Dame-Fairfield (both losses) we came out to slow starts, so we wanted to start this game strong," Richardson said. We knew it was important to get out to an early lead."
Greenwich's first scoring chance came with 6:23 remaining in the first period, but a shot from senior forward Reed Brady off a 2-on-1 was just high. However, the Cardinals scored the equalizer 1:03 later. Sophomore forward Decker Curran's slap shot deflected off the pads of New Canaan senior goalie Chris Koennecke, and Bastone dove on the ice and knocked home the rebound.
"We came out kind of slow at the beginning of the game, but we picked it up later in the first period," Bastone said. "We have 10 sophomores, so I think next year we will be a lot better. Our coach has really helped out our young kids."
The Cardinals matched the Rams' from the midway point of the first period on, but New Canaan seized some momentum going into the second period. With Greenwich on a power play after a New Canaan tripping penalty and the Cardinals on the attack in the Rams zone, Stanton caused a turnover at the blue line, skated down the ice on a breakaway and scored, making it a 2-1 game with :33.5 left in the first period.
"That was a huge goal for us," Richardson said. "Being a man down then scoring in a situation like that provided some momentum for us. We've had about 10 shorthanded goals this year."
Said New Canaan coach Bo Hickey: "There aren't many combinations in the state that are better than No. 19 (Stanton) and 18 (Richardson). They have both been playing steady, consistent hockey."
Both squads had their moments during an up tempo second period. Archino, who recorded 26 saves, kept it a 2-1 game, making four saves during a two-minute stretch early in the period. Meanwhile, Koennecke (15 saves) also stood tall in goal, stopping shots from Finneran and Curran. The Rams took a 3-1 lead with 5:20 remaining in the second period, as Richardson found Stanton alone in front and Stanton finished, putting the puck through the 5-hole.
"That third goal was huge because during that stretch it could have either been 2-2 or 3-1," Stanton said. "Getting that third goal, which was the deciding goal, was important."
Sophomore Davis Bruch scored off a scramble in front of the net 3:57 into the third period, putting GHS in a 4-1 hole. Finneran kept the Cards in the hunt, scoring a power play goal off a feed from senior Paul Macken with 6:51 left to play.
"I thought we played well tonight, especially in the second period," Finneran said. "New Canaan is a good team and they showed it tonight. They are older than us, so next year we'll be better."
Said Russel: "We still have the state playoffs to look forward to and we're going to be ready for it."
New Canaan 4, Greenwich 2
GREENWICH 1 0 1 -- 2
NEW CANAAN 2 1 1 -- 4
Goals: NC -- Harry Stanton 2, Puck Richardson, Davis Bruch; G -- Alex Bastone, Luke Finneran; Assists: NC -- Patrick Hompe, Stanton, Richardson 2; G -- Decker Curran, Paul Macken, Jack Corrigan. Goalies: NC -- Chris Koennecke (15 saves); G -- Bryan Archino (26 saves).
Records: New Canaan (13-6-2); Greenwich (12-9).