The Ridgefield Tigers and New Canaan Rams won’t be meeting for a fourth time this season, but the Tigers will play for their first-ever state championship when they take on the Northwest Catholic Lions Monday night in New Haven.
Ridgefield scored the final four goals of the game as they knocked off the West Haven Blue Devils, 5-1, in the CIAC Div. I semifinals Friday night at Ingalls Rink.
The Tigers’ victory followed the Northwest Catholic’s 6-3 victory over New Canaan in the early semifinal game, as the Lions prevented an all-FCIAC state final.
No. 2 Ridgefield (23-2-0) will face No. 1 Northwest Catholic (19-3-1) at 7 p.m., Monday, again at Ingalls Rink.
Ridgefield is making its first appearance in a state final since 2002, when the Tigers defeated Milford, 8-3, for the Div. II championship.
Northwest Catholic has also appeared in just one state final, with that coming in 2012 when it lost to Newington/Berlin, 2-1, for the Div. III title. The Lions moved up to Div. I three years ago.
Ridgefield had a 1-0 lead in the first period on a power play goal by Jack McGreary, but Blue Devils goalie Brendan Serenson, who made 29 saves, kept it close and West Haven tied the score in the second period.
As had been the case in their first two state tournament games, the Tigers roared to life in the third period, as Jack Stafford scored twice, and Charlie Luft scored once for a 4-1 lead, and Jeff Pracella added an empty-netter to finish the scoring.
Goalie Sean Keegans made 23 saves against 24 shots.
“Jack Stafford’s two goals really led the charge and we were able to bury a good team,” Ridgefield head coach Shaun Gallagher told the Ridgefield Press. “Defensively, there was a lot of toughness even after giving up that first (West Haven) goal. If we can take this type of performance into the finals I have lots of confidence in our guys.”
No. 4 New Canaan, which ended its season with a 19-5-1 record, never really got in gear against the Lions. Northwest Catholic’s Ryan Sherba and Anthony Ceolin scored goals 11 seconds apart late in the first period to take a 3-1 and, although the Rams scored twice in the second period, the Lions never lost the lead.
Gunnar Granito, Brooks Gammill and Tyler Hill all scored for New Canaan, while Hill, Anton Adding, and Quinn Hays had assists.
“We took too long to find our footing,” head coach Pat Gore told the New canaan Advertiser. “You could tell we were a little nervous and we’ve had that problem in some big games down the stretch. Once we got our footing under us, chasing the whole game is too tough, especially this time of year.”
Some Semifinal Story Links