Unbeaten Ridgefield takes hits, makes plays, tops Fairfield Prep
RIDGEFIELD — Hunched over going off the ice after the second period, down awhile after scoring the game-winner in Ridgefield’s 2-1 win Wednesday night over Fairfield Prep: Will Forrest still said he was fine afterward.
“Take a hit to make a play,” he said after scoring two goals at the Winter Garden to keep the No. 1 Tigers undefeated, 18-0 going into the last two games of their regular season.
Forrest went to the front of the net twice, scoring a power-play goal in the first period and the deciding tally with 12:42 left, not two minutes after the No. 3 Jesuits got on the board.
“When you go to the net, good things happen. You’re able to put in those garbage goals off the wall, and that’s how you win those games,” Forrest said; it was a physical game between two teams who could well be there for the CIAC Division I final on March 19.
“We’re not going to dangle through six guys and then put it top-shelf. We’re going to crash the net and put it in those empty nets. That’s what Ridgefield hockey does and why we’ve been so successful as of late. It’s what we do.”
Sean Gordon made 22 saves, with a couple of huge stops on Matt Wenger on a long five-on-three in the second period.
The Jesuits (8-8) came out putting bodies on Forrest’s wingers, Nicky Cullinan and Matt Walker; Walker drew two penalties, and the Tigers scored on an interference penalty that Fairfield Prep took while on a power play of its own.
It was a hard, physical game...
“Ehh,” Jesuits coach Matt Sather said to that. “We played silly for two periods, running around like — silliness.
“We were just out of control for certainly the first period. The second period. ... we just didn’t execute on our power play. Five-on-three, got to execute better on that. Third period, I thought we did all right.”
Colin Bella’s power-play one-timer off a pass from Calyb Reeves got the Jesuits even 29 seconds into the third period. (Reeves took some punishment himself but was still able to backcheck hard on Forrest and tie up his stick on a breakaway later in the third.)
The Tigers got it back quickly. Cullinan fought through a hit behind the Jesuits net and got the puck to Walker. Walker’s shot went wide but caromed off the endboards to Forrest to put home.
Forrest took a hit after the puck trickled in and needed a few seconds to get up. He’d taken another hit up high with 1.5 seconds left in the second period going hard to the net.
Forrest scored on a power-play rebound 9:19 into the game as the Tigers controlled the first period.
“Hats off to them. They played hard. They’ve got a bunch of guys who can score. Their goalie’s good,” Sather said. “We didn’t do ourselves any favors.”
Ridgefield won the teams’ first meeting on opening night Dec. 12, 5-2.
“Their team, every year, not just this year, they improve every year in all facets. They have great coaching. That’s evident in their success,” Ridgefield coach Shaun Gallagher said. “With our guys, it’s continually trying to race with teams like Prep, to play with pace and be prepared for nights like tonight.”
No CIAC team has finished a regular season unbeaten since New Canaan went 20-0 in 2010-11. No unbeaten team has finished the job with a CIAC championship since Enfield in 1982-83.
The Tigers face Division III Wilton on Friday and Division II Westhill/Stamford on Monday.
“You always forget about the record. I couldn’t tell you who we’re playing the game after next one. I couldn’t tell you who played last game,” Forrest said. “We’re focused on the next game, focused on getting better for the next game, and eventually playoffs will just be upon us. You can’t play for a goal in the future.”
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RIDGEFIELD 2, FAIRFIELD PREP 1
FAIRFIELD PREP0 0 1—1
RIDGEFIELD1 0 1—2
Records: Fairfield Prep 8-8; Ridgefield 18-0. Goals: FP—Colin Bella; R—Will Forrest 2. Assists: FP—Calyb Reeves; R—Matt Walker 2, Kees van Wees, Nicky Cullinan. Goalies: FP—Jake Walker (23 saves); R—Sean Gordon (22). Shots: FP—23; R—25.