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All-around effort paces No. 1 Ridgefield past Hamden

January 6, 2019

HAMDEN — The offensive wizardry of the No. 1 boys hockey team in the state is well-documented, the experienced top Ridgefield line that can dominate a game, the depth scoring.

That was all on display Saturday at Astorino Arena, with six different goal scorers pacing the Tigers to a 6-1 win over No. 6 Hamden. But the team’s defensive effort stood out as well, blocking Green Dragons shots and forcing turnovers.

“They’re the best team we saw, talent-wise, the whole deal, from the net on out, and the goalie (Sean Gordon) wasn’t even tested today,” Hamden coach Todd Hall said.

“They do a great job getting in lanes, blocking shots and then transitioning off those turnovers. Sometimes, not every time, but sometimes the puck ends up in the back of the net and kills any momentum we may have had.”

Ridgefield (6-0) has played five teams that were in the top 10 when they met. The Tigers have won each game by at least three goals. They outshot the Green Dragons 28-17.

No. 6 Hamden (5-4) was coming off an 8-3 win over No. 2 Greenwich on Wednesday.

“We were expecting a tough, physical game, as you saw, a lot of big hits,” Ridgefield sophomore Will Stewart said. “It was important to stay disciplined.”

Hamden scored its only goal on the power play, in the second period. The Tigers got a couple of power-play goals, one by Matt Walker to open the scoring a couple of shifts before Stewart set up Luke Welsh to make it 2-0 after one period.

Logan Chang and Patrick Rigby broke up a Hamden rush early in the second period, and Will Forrest’s lead pass sent Nick Cullinan up the left wing. With Walker driving to the net, Cullinan scored to make it 3-0. And even after Eddy Fracasso’s power-play goal got Hamden on the board, the Tigers blocked shots and limited chances.

“We knew they were going to be excited for this game, just as much as we were. Coming off a win against Greenwich like that, they definitely had momentum,” Ridgefield coach Shaun Gallagher said.

Forrest’s power-play goal, with Cullinan returning the favor on the feed, and Tyler Gordon’s short-handed goal gave the Tigers a 5-1 lead after two. Owen Luft stepped in front of a pass to give himself an open look late in the game, finishing off the scoring.

Forrest had three points.

“We had a couple of other guys besides the six that generated some nice chances, too,” Gallagher said. “It’s nice to share the love on the scoresheet, for guys to get rewarded for all their hard work in practices, and digging at the net and being in the right spots.”

PLAYER OF THE GAME

Will Stewart set up a goal and made a couple of good defensive plays, including some blocked shots. “Week to week, he’s our most-improved player,” Gallagher said. “He’s a hard-working kid, and he’s very eager to do the right things out there.”

INJURY REPORT

Ridgefield lost defenseman Kevin McNicholas late in the second period, when he went hard into the endboards tied up with Hamden’s Conor Gethings. Gallagher expects McNicholas will be OK — “he’s tough,” the coach said — though the defenseman had a few facial cuts.

Hamden played without forward Craig Cesare, who sustained a stinger on a hit in the Greenwich game.

QUOTABLE

“You would expect to build off a win like (Greenwich), but unfortunately it’s kind of natural to let down after something like that, especially at the high school level. We didn’t expect that. We certainly prepared the same way. The result was different.” — Hamden coach Todd Hall

mfornabaio@ctpost.com; @fornabaioctp; blog.ctnews.com/fornabaio

RIDGEFIELD 6, HAMDEN 1

RIDGEFIELD2 3 1—6

HAMDEN0 1 0—1

Records: Ridgefield 6-0; Hamden 5-4. Goals: R—Matt Walker, Luke Welsh, Nick Cullinan, Will Forrest, Tyler Gordon, Owen Luft; H—Eddy Fracasso. Assists: R—Forrest 2, Will Stewart, Simon van Wees, Cullinan, Kees van Wees; H—Michael Gethings, A.J. Luedee. Goalies: R—Sean Gordon (16 saves); H—Donald Moorcroft (22). Shots: R—28; H—17.

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