RIDGEFIELD — The penalty-killing units on the Ridgefield High School boys hockey team certainly earned their keep Friday night.

The Tigers killed off more than six minutes’ worth of penalties in the final eight minutes of their clash with previously unbeaten New Canaan to preserve a 4-2 victory. Ridgefield scored three times on the power play to erase an early 1-0 deficit.

“New Canaan is a great team. They have some forwards who can really move well, there’s no doubt,” Ridgefield coach Shaun Gallagher said. “They deserve the record they have so far, and it made it a fun night. It could have gone either way. Special teams is obviously what did it for us tonight.”

Will Forrest’s power-play goal with 12:10 remaining gave Ridgefield a bit of breathing room with a 3-1 lead. New Canaan’s Shane Pickering was in the penalty box serving a two-minute holding penalty after he dragged down Jeff Pracella on a breakaway.

The Tigers were in the driver’s seat for the time being, but a five-minute boarding penalty against Matteo van Wees with 8:04 to go gave the Rams a golden opportunity to tie the game; major penalties, of course, must be served to the end regardless of how many goals the other team scores on the power play.

Thanks in large part to several huge saves by Ridgefield goalie Sean Keegans, the Tigers killed off the five-minute major. Keegans stopped New Canaan sniper Tyler Hill on the doorstep in the final seconds of the power play, prompting the Ridgefield student section to chant his name.

But the Tigers weren’t out of the woods just yet, and with Rams goalie Peter Windas pulled in favor of an extra attacker, Anton Adding scored with 1:39 to go to make it a 3-2 game.

Things got even more dicey for Ridgefield when Landon Byers was whistled for a two-minute interference penalty with 1:04 to go. The Tigers went back to the penalty-kill, and New Canaan again pulled Windas for an extra attacker. But with 57 seconds to go, Ridgefield’s Joe Signorelli slid home a short-handed, empty-net goal from just inside the blue line to all but seal the win.

Keegans made 35 saves to seal the win, while Windas stopped 34 shots.

New Canaan struck first when George McMahon scored off a nifty assist from Hill with 1:11 remaining in the first period.

Byers and Jack Stafford answered with power-play goals in the second period to put Ridgefield ahead 2-1.

“I thought the first period, both teams were extremely sloppy for my and Coach Gallagher’s standards,” New Canaan coach Pat Gore said. “We came out on top in that period, but I think we took our foot off the pedal. Ridgefield came out motivated in the second period and they took the game over. They owned the rest of the game.

“That being said, we gave up three power-play goals on really bad, undisciplined penalties,” Gore continued. “When you have two teams that are this good and this evenly matched, it’s those little mistakes that are going to make the difference.”

Ridgefield is 3-1 after four powerhouse showdowns to start the season. The Tigers beat Fairfield Prep in overtime, lost to Xavier in overtime and beat Notre Dame of West Haven 4-1.

“It’s good to start with a quality schedule and get tested,” Gallagher said, “I think the guys are doing a good job keeping the intensity up.”

New Canaan is also 3-1, with big wins over Notre Dame of West Haven, Hamden and Darien.

Those are impressive starts for both Ridgefield and New Canaan, considering Fairfield Prep, Hamden, Notre Dame of West Haven and Darien made up last year’s Division I state Final Four, with Darien winning it all for the second straight year.


Winter Garden, Ridgefield

NEW CANAAN1 0 1 — 2


First period: 1. NC, George McMahon (Tyler Hill) 13:49.

Second period: 2. R, Landon Byers (Jack McGeary, Matteo van Wees) ppg., 12:10; 3. R, Jack Stafford (Nick Cullinan) ppg., 14:30.

Third period: 4. R, Will Forrest (Stafford) ppg., 2:50; 5. NC, Anton Adding (Drew Morris) extra skater, 13:21; 6. R, Joe Signorelli, eng., shg., 14:03.

Goalies: NC—Peter Windas (34 saves); R—Sean Keegans (35 saves).

Records: New Canaan 3-1; Ridgefield 3-1.