New Canaan defeats Greenwich for third straight FCIAC Championship
STAMFORD -- Olivia Hompe usually makes New Canaan girls hockey coach Rich Bulan smile and say `wow' several times during the course of each game with her impressive exploits on the ice.
The talented Hompe certainly provided many "wow moments" during Saturday's FCIAC girls hockey finals against Greenwich.
Hompe put forth a virtuoso performance, scoring six goals and senior goalie Britt Gardella was dominant in top-seeded New Canaan's resounding 8-0 victory over third-seeded Greenwich at Terry Conners Rink.
The win kept the rolling Rams' dynasty going. They have won three consecutive FCIAC championships and have garnered the coveted title six of the last nine years.
"We have been hoping to win this title all year, this is what we've been working toward," said Hompe, who also registered two assists. "A lot of people look at the score being 8-0 and think it was easy, but Greenwich played well. Britt played fantastic in net. That shutout for her was amazing."
Hompe, a junior, entered the game needing just one point to tie New Canaan graduate Maggie Westphal's state career points record. The game's MVP broke the mark during the first period, tallying one goal and two assists, and after Saturday's performance has a state record 270 career points.
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"You watch her and you just go `wow'," Bulan said. "I'm just thrilled that I've had the opportunity to coach her."
There were a number standout efforts for the Rams Saturday. Senior forward Holly Burwick and senior defenseman Madzie Carroll each recorded one goal and one assist, while Gardella made 24 saves.
Though the score was lopsided, it wasn't the type of game that saw the Rams possess the puck in the Cardinals' zone the entire day. Led by seniors Hannah Jeffrey and Meghan Spezzano, Greenwich had clear shots on goal each period.
"We had a lot of action around their net, we just couldn't break through," Greenwich coach Brett Farson said. "We managed to get a good amount of shots, but just didn't get on the scoreboard. This game went to the team that has been the best in the state all season. They deserved it."
Carroll scored the game's first goal, sending a wrist shot from the left faceoff circle past GHS sophomore goalie Dart Freccia 3 minutes, 7 seconds into the first period. Burwick gave the Rams a 2-0 advantage tallying on a one-timer off a feed from Hompe, who caused a turnover in the Cardinals' zone. New Canaan entered the second period with a three-goal cushion after Hompe went top shelf with a backhand with 4:46 to go in the first period.
On a power play after GHS was charged with a cross checking penalty, New Canaan quickly capitalized in the second period. Abbey Buckenheimer set Hompe up for her second goal of the afternoon and Hompe cashed in on a breakaway, making it a 5-0 game midway through the second period.
Spezzano almost lit the lamp with nine minutes left in the second period, but Gardella turned away her shot off a breakaway. Jeffrey, Emily Bacon, Ciel McDermid and Erin Ferguson applied pressure in the Rams' zone, but the Cards were held off the scoreboard.
"We had a lot of good opportunities, but their goalie had a great game," Jeffrey said. "We couldn't get the puck past her."
Said Spezzano: "Our game plan was to get as many shots as we can to net and we did that. Give credit to their goalie, she was phenomenal."
Supported by Carroll and Buckenheimer on defense, Gardella was rock solid between the pipes.
"Our defense has been fantastic this year," said Gardella, who switched from forward to goalie last season. "The defense-goalie relationship is so important."
Gardella said the Rams always get pumped up to play Greenwich.
"We always want to step up and play our hardest against Greenwich," Gardella said. "My sophomore year was my first year on the team and the only game we lost was to Greenwich, so I still remember that."
Leading 6-0 after two periods, the Rams scored two more goals in the third, courtesy of Hompe.
"We were trying to get the puck up the boards, get it wide and crash the net and we were able to do that," said Hompe, who has 69 goals for the season.
Despite graduating a number of key players from last season, the Rams have won an eye-popping 21 of 22 games and are now vying for their sixth state title in seven years.
"I don't think people understand how hard this team works year in and year out," Bulan said. "We have 12 freshmen this year and the lineup is so different, but they've done such a great job."
New Canaan played Ridgefield in State Tournament semifinals on Thursday, but the result was not available at press time.
"Winning the state title is our second goal of the season," Carroll said. "We're not stopping after this. We are looking forward to seeing more good teams at states."
Said Greenwich senior defenseman Nikki Greenwald: "I am really excited about how far our team can go in states. Maybe we'll see New Canaan again."