The Fairfield co-op girls ice hockey team stayed with Ridgefield for a little more than a period Wednesday afternoon at the Winter Garden Ice Arena, tying the score early in the second period on a Courtney Sheets goal.
As soon as Fairfield grabbed some momentum, though, the Tigers' offense snatched it away. Maddie Burns converted on a pass from Maeve Reilly 1:30 seconds after Sheets' score to give her team a 2-1 lead, and Ridgefield scored two more goals in the next seven minutes, to close out the scoring, for a 4-1 victory in an FCIAC game.
The Tigers' defense was excellent throughout, limiting Fairfield to seven shots on goal. Fairfield struggled to push the puck up the ice against aggressive Ridgefield. It rarely found open passing lanes and set up clear shots on goal.
"Ridgefield definitely played up to its potential today," Fairfield assistant coach Paul Jalbert said. "They are experienced and have a couple of really good scorers, and we don't have those. As a result, our offense is suffering. Our players showed today that they don't have the durability some opposing players have."
With the loss, Fairfield dropped to 2-5-1 overall and 2-5-0 in the FCIAC. It has lost four consecutive games in the last week to Trumbull (in overtime), Darien, New Canaan and now Ridgefield by a combined score of 17-4. Ridgefield improved to 4-4-1 and 4-1-0 in conference play.
Meredith Keenan opened the scoring for Ridgefield at 1:51 of the first period when she slapped a pass from Reilly past goalie Phoebe Cascella. The Tigers controlled the puck for the majority of the first and got off a number of good shots.
In contrast, Fairfield didn't generate offensive flow or challenge goalie Mikhaela Miller. This was a theme throughout, as Ridgefield took 37 shots on goal.
When Sheets knotted the game at one 1:45 into the second, Fairfield appeared more energized. Instead of becoming rattled, the Tigers' offense continued to aggressively push the puck and space the ice well, and it paid off.
Burns goal off a Reilly assist at 3:15 stopped Fairfield from gaining any further momentum, and goals by Burns at 8:13 and Reilly at 10:00 demonstrated that Ridgefield's offensive depth was too much for Fairfield's defense to handle. Burns converted off of a quick pass from Reilly, while Reilly snuck the puck past Cascella off a pass from Kate Lombardozzi.
After the Tigers took their three-goal lead, it looked like Fairfield was on its way to a lopsided loss. However, its defense maintained composure and shut out Ridgefield for the rest of the game. Fairfield received some outstanding saves from Cascella. She finished with 33 saves.
"The defense made some mistakes, but by and large they played well," Jalbert said. "I'd say that they did a good job of slowing down their offense about 70 percent of the time. If they hadn't, the score would have been ugly."
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"We should be able to have a good chance to win in our next two matches," Jalbert said. "I think we have the ability to definitely win three or four more."
Danny Atkinson is a freelance reporter