New Canaan's girls hockey team wanted to get off to a quick start in Wednesday's Fairfield County Interscholastic Athletic Conference semifinal against Ridgefield. The talented tandem of Olivia Hompe and Jana Persky gave the Rams the early spark they needed.
Hompe scored a shorthanded goal 1:10 into the game, assisted by Persky, and the Rams (18-1) went on to beat the Tigers, 5-2, at Darien Ice Rink. New Canaan will play Darien in the FCIAC title game Saturday at Terry Conners Rink at 6:30 p.m.
Hompe scored two goals for the Rams, with Persky collecting two assists. The Rams' top line has set a school record for most points in a season, and they have lifted the Rams to a shot at their fifth league crown. New Canaan has played in seven straight league championship games.
"They played us tough in the first few games,'' New Canaan coach Rich Bulan said. "We had a 4-1 lead in the first game and we hung on, and we beat them 5-4 in our last game. We knew we had to score early. That was important for us."
New Canaan also got two goals from Corbett Riley and one from Holly Burwick. That was as important to Bulan as any thing. Any contribution from players not on the Rams' top line makes the team that much more dangerous. The Rams were up 5-0 after the second period before the Tigers clawed back with two goals in the third.
"Our second and third lines came up big,'' Bulan said. "That's huge when we can get them to score. When we get contributions from everybody, we're just that much better."
New Canaan goalie Britt Gardella (16 saves) also played well, especially when Ridgefield tried to respond after the early goals by the Rams. Gardella kept Ridgefield off the board, and New Canaan padded the lead with three second period goals.
The victory sends New Canaan to its seventh straight league final. It finds a familiar foe in Darien. The teams have split the past two championship games. New Canaan has won both meetings this season. "It doesn't matter if it's gardening or chess, Darien against New Canaan is always big,'' Bulan said. "We're expecting a tight game."
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