The opportunities that were missed early in the season are now being converted, so it's no surprise the victories are quickly mounting for the Greenwich High School boys hockey team.
A day after scoring three answered first-period goals in a convincing win over Westhill, the Cardinals used the same blueprint for success against Stamford. Playing its best hockey at the right time of the season, Greenwich won for the fourth time in five games, defeating Stamford, 4-0, at Dorothy Hamill Skating Rink.
Senior forward Paul Macken recorded one goal and one assist for the Cardinals, who raised their record to 10-7 overall and 7-4 in the FCIAC with their third consecutive victory. With one conference game left, Greenwich is seeded fifth in the FCIAC.
"It was a good workmanlike effort tonight," Cardinals coach Bob Russel said. "We are finishing better on our chances and like last night, we scored on our first shift, which does a lot for the emotion of the team."
Pressuring the puck down low, the Cardinals took a 1-0 lead just 18 seconds into the first period. Junior forward Luke Finneran knocked a rebound past Stamford senior goalie Hunter Alderman (22 saves), who was tested early and often. On a power play after Greenwich was whistled with a hooking penalty, the Black Knights saw the Cardinals increase their advantage. Sophomore forward Matt Lodato sent a cross-ice pass to sophomore forward Decker Curran, who put the puck through the 5-hole, giving GHS a 2-0 edge with 9:58 to go in the opening period. Senior Jack Corrigan initiated the play by poking the puck away from a Stamford defenseman.
"The first few games it was a struggle for us, but now we know FCIACs and states are coming up and we are getting on each other, working harder and executing," said Curran, who was sidelined for a couple of games with an elbow injury, but appears back in top form. "Knowing we are going to be in the FCIAC Tournament, we want to keep pushing harder. Every game we take as a learning experience to try to get better."
While Greenwich, which jumped out to a 3-0 first-period lead in its 8-3 win against Westhill Wednesday, followed the same pattern Thursday, and so did Stamford.
"We fell behind 3-0 against in our last game (St. Joseph) and that's tough to come back from," Stamford coach Doug Robinson said. "Playing two nights in a row is tough, but it's not an excuse, because Greenwich played last night too. Give Greenwich credit, they beat us to the puck and won the battle for the puck along the boards."
Ian Fulton, a sophomore forward, put the Black Knights in a 3-0 hole, converting a one-timer off a feed from sophomore Naoya Fukuchi with 3:58 left in the first period. Meanwhile, Stamford's chances were few and far between during the first 15 minutes of play.
"The important thing for us is to learn to play with a lead," Russel said. "Stamford has been playing really well and getting better and better, so we thought we had to play our best to win and we did. Once we had the lead we played smart and didn't let them get many chances."
Macken didn't allow the Cardinals to let down in the second period. He blasted a slap shot from the point past a screened Alderman, putting Greenwich in front 4-0. The Black Knights were on the power play once in the second and twice in third period, but the Cards killed each penalty. Supported by the strong defensive play of senior William Waesche and sophomore Tommy Rogan, goalie Bryan Archino registered his second shutout of the season. The Cardinals sophomore netminder made 15 saves, two of which were impressive glove saves off a shot from Stamford's Andrew Tuccinardi and Justin Nizolek.
"Archino played great tonight," said Lodato, who scored four goals Wednesday against Westhill. "We knew we had to get on Stamford quickly and not let them hang around. They were close to us in the standings, so we definitely had to come ready to play tonight."
Stamford, which entered the game seeded seventh in the FCIAC, fell to 4-5 in the league and 7-10-1 overall.
"After the first period it was a pretty even game," Robinson said. "It was the same way the other night. We settled down nicely after the first period. But getting behind so quickly put us in a tough situation."
The Cards will visit East Haven Saturday before hosting Trinity Catholic Monday.
"We want to finish the season strong and go into the playoffs on a high note," Russel said. "The team has continued to get better all year."
Greenwich 4, Stamford 0
STAMFORD 0 0 0 -- 0
GREENWICH 3 1 0 -- 4
Goals: G -- Luke Finneran, Decker Curran, Ian Fulton, Paul Macken. Assists: G -- Macken, Brian Silard, Matt Lodato, Jack Corrigan, Naoya Fukuchi, Tommy Rogan. Goalies: Bryan Archino (15 saves); S -- Hunter Alderman (22 saves).
Records: Greenwich 10-7, 7-4 FCIAC; Stamford 7-10-1, 4-5 FCIAC.