Girls hockey honored at HOF dinner
OLD GREENWICH -- They shared a few tables near the back of the massive ballroom and quietly soaked in the atmosphere.
More than seven months after lifting both FCIAC and state trophies over their heads, the New Canaan girls hockey team and their coaches were honored at Monday night's Fairfield County Sports Commission's sixth annual Sports Night Hall of Fame Dinner at the Hyatt Regency Greenwich.
More than 600 people were in attendance, as each town had a person, team or organization recognized for excellence in sports achievement.
"It was a real pleasant surprise, believe me," Rams head coach Rich Bulan said about receiving the honor.
A year after Darien supplanted New Canaan as the dominant team in the conference -- the Blue Wave girls won the honor for their town in 2009 -- the Rams took the title right back.
"We got to return the favor," Bulan said with a laugh. "Darien very much deserved it last year, and it was very nice for them to recognize us as far as this year. I just thought it was really cool for two towns like Darien and New Canaan to have back-to-back hockey teams being represented as sports persons of the year."
Bulan said last year's team and the 2007 one, which went 24-0, were the two best he'd ever coached.
"The biggest thing about last year was just that chemistry," Bulan said. "I gotta admit, this was without a doubt one of the better groups I've had."
Elizabeth Lewis, a senior at left wing, still remembers how angry the team was at blowing their chance at an FCIAC title in March of 2009.
"Last year was definitely not a good feeling, watching them receive their medals at the end of the game," Lewis said. "We knew we should have won and we're glad that we've been able to take that back and show them who's the best."
Olivia Hompe, last year's freshman scoring sensation, believes the reason the team was at the dinner Monday night was due to a mid-season loss that sparked their rally.
"I think the Greenwich game was a huge milestone in the season," Hompe said. "It helped us to put that one game into perspective. Going into the final games it wasn't like, `Oh, an undefeated season.' I felt we were brought down to earth and it was nice having that as a reminder."
The girls were loose -- the season is still more than a month away -- and many reflected on why talent was needed just as much as team chemistry.
The team is excited and eager to start the season, Bulan said. Corbett Ripley, a sophomore who made the switch from defense to right wing last season, said she couldn't believe how much the team accomplished in 2009-10.
"It was more than I could ever ask for," Ripley said. "When I was little, I remember looking up to the New Canaan girls."
Sophomore Bianca Schultz said, "I feel we're all very strong, and we've all gotten close after last year because it's all the same girls."
Nov. 22 marks the start of tryouts, and it's never too early for Bulan to talk about his team.
"Right now, from what I understand, we've only got maybe four or five kids who'll try out," he said. "Don't know much about whose coming. The way [last year's class] was broadcast to me about who was coming and who could play -- that doesn't necessarily mean we'll have someone coming in who can't win a job and fill some holes."