Ridgefield blanks Darien girls to reach finals
After its marathon 5-OT victory over Simsbury in the state quarterfinals, nothing was going to keep the Ridgefield girls' hockey team from achieving its goal of reaching the state championship.
They had worked too hard for it to end in Wednesday's semifinal at Darien, and after a stellar two-goal first period, the Tigers cruised to a 5-0 win at Darien Ice Rink.
"After Monday's game we knew we were capable of putting out the effort we gave tonight," said Ridgefield coach Paul Fabbri, who only put his team through a light practice on its off day Tuesday. "We wanted to make a statement in the first period and that's exactly what we did. With this kind of team, we really felt like we deserve to play for the state title."
If there were any lingering affects of Monday's dramatic win against Simsbury -- the only team to beat New Canaan this year -- the team the Tigers will face in Saturday's final -- they didn't show.
Ridgefield came out fast and hard from the drop of the puck and after dominating the early exchanges, scored a power play goal, its first of four on the night, with seven minutes remaining in the period.
After moving the puck around the point, Dana Cerone found Erica Guider cutting in front of goal, and the freshman's one-timer beat Darien goalie Shannon Hall. For the rest of the period, Hall kept her team in the game as Ridgefield threw puck after puck towards goal.
Finally, with one minute left in the period, Cerone, who had a goal and two assists on the night, found Cara Lockwood alone in front with a pass from behind the goal that extended the lead.
Along with Cerone, Lockwood (one goal, two assists) and Guider (two goals, one assist) led the Ridgefield scoring, while co-captain Rachel Morrison added a goal.
Darien, who came back from a 3-0 first period deficit in its quarterfinal on Monday, did everything it could to get back into the game during the second period. But Ridgefield goalie, Maggie Philbin, who was filling in for the second game in a row for the out-of-action Jen James, was determined to earn her first-ever playoff shutout.
"I wasn't expecting to get the shutout at all, I just came in the game hoping to do my best for the team and keep my nerves down," said Philbin, who had 21 saves. "After we scored those first period goals it brought my nerves down a bit."
As Darien pushed forward in the third period desperate to get on the board, they forced the play and took a handful of penalties. The Tigers made them pay, scoring three power play goals down the stretch to put the game out of reach.
"All we kept saying after the second period was that if we could get one goal it could change the game," Darien coach Al Gurney said. "The penalties were a result of us forcing the puck everywhere on the ice, and when you play aggressively like that, sometimes you get caught. Ridgefield played the better game and deserve to be there on Saturday."
Morrison agreed that his team's work on the power play was what won the game.
"We've actually struggled all season with the power play, so its great that our hard work in practice has paid off with some goals," Morrison said. "We've been working really hard at settling the puck and moving it around the perimeter to get shots from the point and rebounds in front of goal. Coming off both these games, we've got a lot of confidence right now and cant wait for another chance against New Canaan."