Ridgefield fights past Fairfield in hockey playoffs
RIDGEFIELD — It ended about the same way the teams’ regular-season game ended, probably about the way most people expected. The path to Ridgefield’s 6-0 playoff win over Fairfield on Friday in the CIAC Division I boys hockey first round was a little different, though.
Fairfield hung in until two power-play goals in the first 59 seconds of the third period turned it into an easy one for the Tigers. And then a feisty game turned nasty.
“I think it was just important to stay focused,” said Nick Cullinan, who had four points, including the first of those two power-play goals. “We’ve hopefully got another few games. We don’t want to jeopardize anybody being eligible. We had to stay calm.”
Fifth-seeded Ridgefield (19-4) meets 13th-seeded Darien (11-11-1) in the quarterfinals, Sunday at 5:30 p.m. at the Wonderland of Ice in Bridgeport. The Tigers, defending champions, beat Darien, the 2015 and 2016 champs, 2-1 in the FCIAC semifinals and 5-3 in the regular season.
“I’m really excited,” Ridgefield junior goalie Sean Gordon said. “We beat them two times, but they were pretty close games. I’m looking forward to another one.”
The Tigers beat Fairfield 8-1 in the regular season, but Mustangs senior goalie Dawson Gunn (39 saves) kept this meeting close awhile, making some big stops in close.
“We tried to just come out as fast as we could,” Cullinan said. “We got chances, but their goalie was playing well. We had to keep plugging.”
Cullinan got around a defenseman with the teams playing four-on-four in the first period to score the first goal. Matt Walker scored the first of his three goals 4:52 into the second, led on a breakaway by Will Forrest (three assists), to make it 2-0.
And so it stayed to the end of the second period, when, with 3.0 seconds left, the 12th-seeded Mustangs (12-11) received two minors.
Cullinan scored from the left side 14 seconds into the third. Walker put in a rebound 45 seconds later.
“It’s tough,” Fairfield coach Carl Larouche said. “It’s tough. There’s not really much to say.”
It appeared he had more to say but didn’t want to say it.
The Mustangs’ Kevin Quinn received two majors after infiltrating the Tigers’ celebration after Kees van Wees scored the sixth goal. Will Von Brauchitsch had been sent off earlier for unsportsmanlike conduct.
“We knew we had to play really hard,” Von Brauchitsch said. “They’re a very good team. We had to get pucks deep, do everything we could; We just came up short.”
PLAYER OF THE GAME
Sean Gordon made 22 saves and made sure Fairfield didn’t have a chance to turn momentum in its favor.
A lot of the nastiest stuff was in and around the other goal crease from Gordon. While the teams shoved, during the long delays while officials tried to sort it out, the Ridgefield goalie skated around the defensive zone or kicked imaginary pucks out of his net.
“When it kind of got sloppy, I was trying to do stuff to keep me focused,” Gordon said. “I was visualizing making saves, playing the puck.”
“It was good to see our guys come out of there with their emotions in check.” —Ridgefield coach Shaun Gallagher
email@example.com; http://twitter.com/fornabaioctp; http://blog.ctnews.com/fornabaio
RIDGEFIELD 6, FAIRFIELD 0
FAIRFIELD0 0 0—0
RIDGEFIELD1 1 4—6
Records: Fairfield 12-11; Ridgefield 19-4. Goals: R—Matt Walker 3, Nick Cullinan 2, Kees van Wees; Assists: R—Will Forrest 3, Cullinan 2, Liam Galloway 2, Simon van Wees, Tyler Gordon; Goalies: F—Dawson Gunn (39 saves); R—Sean Gordon (22); Shots: F—22; R—45