Boys hockey: Ridgefield rolls into Division I semis
BRIDGEPORT — The first two meetings between the Ridgefield and Darien boys hockey teams came down right to the finish with one goal separating the teams late in the third periods of both.
With a trip to the Whale on line, this time the Tigers left no doubt.
Led by a dominant performance by Ridgefield’s top line trio of Will Forrest, Nick Cullinan and Matt Walker, who scored five times as the No. 5 Tigers booked their place in the Division I semifinals behind a 7-0 win over the No. 13 Blue Wave Saturday.
“They haven’t been together all season, but they’ve been playing together a long time before high school hockey,” said Tigers coach Sean Gallagher. “The chemistry has been there long before I’ve known them.”
Ridgefield — which edged Darien 5-3 during the regular season and 2-1 in the FCIAC semifinals — will meet No. 1 Fairfield Prep in the semifinals on Wednesday at 7:30 p.m. at Yale’s Ingalls Rink. Prep defeated Notre Dame-Fairfield 4-3 on Sunday.
Forrest and Cullinan each posted two goals and three assists and Walker added a goal and two assists in what turned into a showcase for the juniors. Tigers senior Kieran McGowan also scored twice.
“We’re best friends and have been playing since we were eight years old,” Cullinan said. “We love playing with each other and we love playing hockey; it comes naturally to us but it’s fun.”
The group set the tone early as Forrest found Cullinan for a goal 1:01 into the contest. Cullinan returned the favor four minutes later with an excellent feed to double the advantage; McGowan made it 3-0 before the Blue Wave could blink.
Darien kept the margin at 3-0 behind a stellar effort on the penalty kill before the Cullinan scored right before the second period ended. The Tigers iced the cake in the third and finished with a 36-10 edge in shots.
“We prepared all week and came out flying,” Cullinan said. “We were really excited; the seniors only have a few games left, we just tried to do it for them and come out as fast as we could.”
The Blue Wave had their season end at 11-12-1; Darien upset Notre Dame-West Haven in the first round to make it to the Wonderland of Ice Saturday. Junior Henri Pfeifle made the start in goal before senior Nick Elwell finished the contest.
The Tigers — winners of the last two FCIAC tournaments — will chase a fourth piece of hardware this week.
“Darien played strong ever time we played them,” Gallagher said. “They’re well-coached and are never going to quit; they have good players on their team, I don’t think the score indicates the closeness of the rivalry.”
PLAYER OF THE GAME
Nick Cullinan, Ridgefield: Was both the giver and recipient of outstanding passes to set up the Tigers’ first two goals, which got them off and running.
“They love getting to the Whale and from there we just have to put our best effort forward and see what happens,” Gallagher said.
RIDGEFIELD 7, DARIEN 0
DARIEN 0 0 0 — 0
RIDGEFIELD 3 1 3 — 7
Records: Darien 10-11-1, Ridgefield 18-4.
Goals: R—Nick Cullinan 2, Will Forrest 2, Kieran McGowan 2, Matt Walker. Assists: R—Cullinan 3, Forrest 3, Kees van Wees, Tom Lombardozzi, Liam Galloway, Del Irving. Goalies: D—Henri Pfeifle (27 saves); Nick Elwell (2 saves); R—Sean Gordon (10 saves).