FCIAC boys and girls ice hockey playoff races come into focus

The playoff picture has gotten more into focus regarding which six teams will partake in the 2018-19 FCIAC boys ice hockey tournament which takes place from Feb. 23-March 2, while the four-team field is already set for the FCIAC girls ice hockey tournament which commences Feb. 20.

Ridgefield’s undefeated boys team, which is 9-0-0 in the FCIAC and 17-0 overall as of Feb. 10, has already clinched its playoff spot and the Tigers seem well on their way to securing the top seed in six-team field of the FCIAC boys tournament in which the top two seeds draw byes into the semifinals.

Ridgefield is looking to three-peat as FCIAC champion. Coach Shaun Gallagher’s Tiger are also looking to cop a fifth conference crown in the last eight seasons as they also won two straight in 2012 and ’13.

The Tigers were voted No. 1 unanimously in the GameTimeCT Top 10 Boys Hockey Poll released Feb. 5. They received all 14 first-place votes in the poll and after winning their three games last week, outscoring their opponents by a combined 22-7 margin, the Tigers likely will remain on top in the next poll.

The FCIAC had the top two teams in that state poll voted on by 10 media members and four coaches and the Blue Wave improved to 7-1 in the FCIAC and 12-4 overall with Saturday’s 6-0 victory over the Fairfield co-op team.

New Canaan, ranked No. 7 as the third conference team among the top seven in the state poll, has 16 points in the FCIAC race. The Rams have played two more conference teams than Darien as they have an 8-2 conference record and are 12-6 overall.

Darien and New Canaan have already faced off and Darien prevailed by a 4-3 margin on Jan. 30. That looms as a key win which could earn the Darien Blue Wave the second seed and accompanying bye in the FCIAC tourney.

Ridgefield likely secured the top seed with two big victories within a span of five days – a pivotal 3-2 home overtime victory over Darien on Jan. 11 followed by a 6-1 victory on New Canaan’s home ice on Jan. 15.

Greenwich and the Westhill/Stamford co-op teams are the next two teams in the playoff race. The Cardinals are 8-8-2 overall and 5-3-1 in the FCIAC, one point ahead of Westhill/Stamford, which is 8-8 overall and 5-3 in the conference. Westhill/Stamford is three points ahead of the next closest playoff contender.

The Fairfield co-op (3-3-1 FCIAC, 7-7-1 overall), Trumbull (3-3, 8-7) and Wilton (3-5, 8-5-1) are the next three teams scrambling to snatch one an FCIAC playoff berth.

Westhill/Stamford, which caught the attention of longtime FCIAC boys ice hockey aficionados with its 8-5 victory at Greenwich on Jan. 10, began this week with a 5-0 shutout of Staples on Monday, while Trumbull came through with a 5-4 home overtime victory over Westhill/Stamford this past Saturday.

Another pivotal game is scheduled for this Wednesday, Feb. 13, when Westhill/Stamford hosts Fairfield, with the puck scheduled to be dropped at 7:50 p.m. a Terry Conners Rink. This game is big because the winning team will have the head-to-head advantage in the event the first tiebreaking scenario is needed to determine either a fifth seed or the final playoff berth.

The Fairfield co-op team will play all three of its fellow contenders for the final two playoff berths down the stretch, with home games also scheduled against Trumbull on Feb. 18 and Wilton on Feb. 20. Fairfield received the 13th most points in the Feb. 5 state poll as the only FCIAC team in the “Others receiving votes” category.

One key element is that Trumbull has played one less game than Westhill/Stamford and Fairfield co-op teams and has that extra opportunity to pick up more points with five conference games remaining. The Eagles will play Trinity Catholic on Feb. 13, followed by Darien, Fairfield, St. Joseph and Staples.

Wilton may have gone into this week with the same six points as Trumbull in conference play but the Warriors have a tough task because they only have three remaining FCIAC games. Conference powers Ridgefield and Darien remain on their schedule along with that Fairfield game and the Warriors have already lost games against Westhill/Stamford and Trumbull.

So, as it shapes up, even though four teams are officially hustling after either of those two final playoff berths, a more realistic view is that Trumbull, Westhill/Stamford and Fairfield are the three teams with the best chances at those two spots.

The FCIAC boys hockey tournament begins with the playdown round on Feb. 23, followed by the semifinals on Feb. 27. All games in the first two rounds will be held at the home sites of he higher seeds. The championship game will be played at Greenwich’s Dorothy Hamill Rink at 6 p.m.

The 2018-19 FCIAC girls ice hockey tournament has all four of its playoffs spots clinched with No. 1 New Canaan, No. 2 Darien, No. 3 Greenwich, the two-time defending conference champion, and No. 4 Fairfield co-op team.

There are eight teams in the conference and the FCIAC season consists of 14 games with each conference team playing each other twice in the conference season.

New Canaan, which defeated Stamford/Westhill/Staples on Monday, is 17-1-1 overall and 12-1-1 in the FCIAC for 25 points, followed by defending state champ Darien, which is 14-3-1 overall and 11-1-1 in the FCIAC for 23 points.

New Canaan and Darien had their tie game against each other, 1-1 on Jan. 26, but what has secured New Canaan’s Rams the top seed was their 3-0 victory over Darien back on Dec. 17.

New Canaan’s only loss was a 3-2 defeat at Greenwich on Dec. 29. But since then coach Rich Bulan’s Rams have gone 12-0-1, including when they won their home rematch against Greenwich, 3-2, on Jan. 18.

Greenwich was 10-4 in the FCIAC and 14-5 overall as of the games played through Feb. 9, earning the conference’s No. 3 seed.

Fairfield (7-5-1 FCIAC, 8-7-1 overall) is two points ahead of the Ridgefield/Danbury co-op team (6-6-1, 8-10-1) but Fairfield has clinched the fourth and final FCIAC playoff berth with a 7-4 home victory over the Trumbull/St. Joseph cooperative team on Feb. 7.

A previous pivotal victory was Jan. 17 when the Fairfield co-op defeated Ridgefield/Danbury, 3-1, after those teams played to a 2-2 tie in their respective season openers.

Both the semifinal and championships games will be played at the Darien Ice House. Faceoff times for the Feb. 20 semifinals are at 6 and 7:40 p.m., with the Feb. 23 championship scheduled for a faceoff at 4 p.m.

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