Darien, New Canaan, Fairfield boys ice hockey ranked in state’s top five

Notre Dame-West Haven maintained its No. 1 ranking while FCIAC teams Darien and New Canaan are ranked second and third, respectively, in the latest GameTimeCT Top 10 Boys Hockey Poll which was released Jan. 10.

Darien and New Canaan led a trio of FCIAC teams ranked among the top five as the Fairfield Warde/Ludlowe cooperative team is ranked fifth.

Greenwich is ranked 10th as the fourth conference team in the Top 10. Greenwich’s Cardinals jumped into the Top 10 and Ridgefield dropped out of it.

Notre Dame-West Haven was the unanimous No. 1 choice from all 12 of the voters on the voting panel which consists of eight media members and four coaches, including Darien coach Mac Budd and Ridgefield coach Shaun Gallagher.

It is the second time this year that the Green Knights were the unanimous No 1. The first time was in the preseason poll, and then Darien got two first-place votes in the previous poll while ND-West Haven received the other nine.

But then the Green Knights impressed with a 6-1 victory last Saturday over a Fairfield Prep team which was ranked third at the time, Darien had a pair of ties while staying unbeaten last week, so it is back to being a unanimous No. 1 for the Green Knights.

Notre Dame-West Haven (5-1-1) received the 120 polling points which comes to a unanimous No. 1 from 12 voters, while No. 2 Darien (4-0-2) received 106 points and No. 3 New Canaan (4-1) got 84 points.

With New Canaan having leapfrogged over Fairfield Prep (5-3) and moved up spot from the previous poll, that set up showdown of No. 2 vs. No. 3 on Wednesday afternoon, Jan. 11.

Darien and New Canaan were set to face off against each other at 4:10 p.m. on Wednesday at Darien Ice House, which is the home rink for both teams. New Canaan is the designated home team in this first of two showdowns among these rivals. Darien will be the home team for the Feb. 10 rematch, a Friday night at 7 o’clock.

Fairfield Prep dropped down one spot to No. 4 in the current poll.

The unbeaten Fairfield Warde/Ludlowe cooperative team (6-0-1) remained at No. 5.

The other five teams in the current Top 10, in order, are Xavier (5-0-1), Northwest Catholic (4-2-1), eighth-ranked Simsbury (5-1-0), North Haven (6-0-0), and Greenwich (2-5-0).

FCIAC teams Ridgefield (1-5-0) and St. Joseph (3-4-0) received the 12th and 13th most polling points, respectively, as they are two of the four teams in the “Also receiving votes” category.

The Darien-New Canaan showdown on Jan. 11 highlighted the slate of many big matchups in the next few weeks involving FCIAC teams which have received votes in state polls. Several of those games have occurred recently.

Darien had a pair of 2-2 ties last week, including one against host Fairfield Warde/Ludlowe at Wonderland of Ice on Jan. 4.

New Canaan has been very impressive lately. The Rams improved to 4-1 last Saturday with their 6-1 home victory over Ridgefield. That victory occurred after a 6-2 win at Greenwich on Jan. 3. The Rams have won three straight games by the combined score of 20-6 since their only loss, a 5-4 home loss in overtime to Fairfield Prep on Dec. 16.

After Fairfield co-op’s 2-2 tie against Darien, Fairfield improved to 6-0-1 on Jan. 6 with a 5-3 victory at St. Joseph.

Defending FCIAC champion Ridgefield was attempting to snap a three-game losing skid Wednesday (Jan. 11) evening against host Fairfield Warde/Ludlowe.

Those other key FCIAC games for the rest of the month include New Canaan at St. Joseph on Thursday (Jan. 12); Greenwich at Ridgefield on Saturday (Jan. 14); New Canaan at Fairfield Warde/Ludlowe, and Darien at Ridgefield on Jan. 21; St. Joseph at Darien on Jan. 23; Fairfield Warde/Ludlowe at Greenwich on Jan. 24;

Greenwich at New Canaan, and Ridgefield at St. Joseph on Jan. 28; and St. Joseph at New Canaan, and Ridgefield at Greenwich on Jan. 30.

And then second-ranked Darien and No. 5 Fairfield will have their rematch on Feb. 1 at Darien Ice House.

Ridgefield is the defending FCIAC champion, having won a 1-0 overtime thriller over Fairfield Warde/Ludlowe in the championship game of the conference tournament.

Ridgefield goalie Henry Ertl was selected MVP as he had 37 saves in the final of his spectacular tournament in which he shut out all three opponents. Fourth-seeded Ridgefield shut out fifth-seeded Greenwich, 5-0, in the opening quarterfinal round and the Tigers advanced to the final with a 1-0 victory over top-seeded Darien.

Second-seeded Fairfield Warde/Ludlowe advanced to that championship game with a 4-1 victory over seventh-seeded Westhill/Stamford and a 7-0 semifinal victory over third-seeded New Canaan.

Darien shut out eighth-seeded Trumbull, 6-0, and New Canaan shut out sixth-seeded St. Joseph, 4-0, in the other quarterfinal games.

Notre Dame-West Haven defeated Darien, 4-2, in last year’s championship game of the Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference Division I Hockey Tournament.

The Green Knights, consequently, maintained their No. 1 ranking in the final state poll. They took over that top ranking in the middle of January and never relinquished it.

Darien was ranked No. 2 in that final state poll while fellow conference members Fairfield Warde/Ludlowe, New Canaan and Ridgefield were ranked 4-through-6, respectively.

Notre Dame-West Haven will play at Darien on Jan. 28 in a Saturday afternoon (4:20 p.m.) rematch of last winter’s Division I state championship game.

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