Ridgefield, Guilford, Woodstock Academy Capture Connecticut State Titles

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Ridgefield Seizes First Connecticut State Title in 15 years

The drought was something that every Ridgefield senior was aware of and wanted to rid itself of when it took on top-seeded Northwest Catholic at Ingalls Ice Rink at Yale University on Monday night.

A team of destiny, Ridgefield’s last state title came 15 years ago when it knocked off Milford for the Division-II crown back in 2002. Going up against Northwest Catholic-West Hartford for the Division I title, it would not be denied.

Northwest Catholic came into the finals averaging over three goals per game, but it was Ridgefield that came out with the explosive offense scoring three goals in the first period en route to a 6-2 victory and its first-ever Division I championship.

“We wanted it so badly and the kids wanted it so badly,” Ridgefield coach Shaun Gallagher told The Hartford Courant. “To beat Fairfield Prep in the quarterfinals was incredible and that gave us a huge momentum boost. For the town of Ridgefield, the school, the community and for all the youth coaches that worked with these kids, the families driving all over the place, it is special to a lot of people.”

Nick Culinan, Matteo van Wees and Jeff Pracela each scored in 24-second span to open the floodgates for Ridgefield with four minutes left in the first period. Ridgefield failed to connect on two 5-on-3 power-play opportunities in the opening period, but were finally able to connect when Culinan broke the scoreless tie.

Northwest Catholic would not go away quietly, however, and fought back to cut the deficit to 3-2 early in the third period.

Anthony Ceolin and Paul Arel scored 53 seconds apart to get Northwest Catholic back into the game, but Ridgefield was able to weather the storm.

Ridgefield answered back with three more goals over the final nine minutes to seal the victory as Will Forrest, Jack Stafford and Van Wees each found the back of the net for Ridgefield. Goaltender Sean Keegans was the difference-maker in net with 29 saves.

“The defense was really solid tonight and let very few quality chances get through and when they did, Keegs was there,” Gallagher told The Ridgefield Patch. “He’s been incredible all year.”

Guilford Rallies in Third to Claim Division II title

The Guilford ice hockey team knew what was at stake when it took on Watertown/Pomperaug for the Division II state championship at Ingalls Ice Rink at Yale University on Saturday night.

Guilford had not won a state championship since 1994 and head coach Ralph Russo was motivated more than ever to send his seniors off the right way after a historic season.

John DeLucia snapped the tie with the eventual game-winning goal for Guilford with 3:10 remaining in regulation and Jack Ring added an insurance goal to give the Indians a 5-3 victory and the title.

“What is really special about this year is that we had a nice balance of kids and we had a few really good veteran upperclassmen and some dynamic under class players,” Russo told The Hartford Courant. “They set some records for the school and it is the first team to win 21 games, the first team to win the SCC Tournament championship and a state championship. It was a really good year for the program.”

Guilford trailed 2-1 entering the third period, but with the winning mentality it played with all season, never doubted itself with the game on the line.

Ricky Sandella had a hat trick to power the Indians before setting up DeLucia for the game-winner and cementing their legacy in Guilford team history.

After Watertown/Pomperaug tied the game at 3-3 on a goal by Ryan Dunfee, Guilford broke out on a 3-2 rush and DeLucia tapped in the game-winner with assists from Sandella and Jack Ring.

“It is crazy,” Sandella said. “It was a year of history for a great team with a great group of guys.”

Woodstock Academy Erupts for Seven Goals in Division III State Triumph

Senior Nate DeLuca broke the tie with his shorthanded tally with 8:54 left and Woodstock Academy erupted for five goals in the final frame as the Centaurs knocked off Hall-Southington, 7-3, for the Division III state championship at Ingalls Ice Arena at Yale University on Saturday.

Woodstock had just taken its first penalty of the game, on a tripping call midway through the first period while trailing, 3-2, but the negative quickly turned positive for the Centuars.

DeLuca found the loose puck after a defensive clear and saw open ice in front of him with only Southington goalie Zach Monti standing between him and the back of the net. At first DeLuca thought about passing the puck to his teammate, freshman Jake Starr, but elected to take the shot himself and found an open side to fool Monti for what would prove to be the eventual game-winning goal.

“I heard him yelling don’t pass it,” DeLuca told The Norwich Bulletin. “The group we have this year is just unbelievable and I wouldn’t trade this moment right now for anything.”

The shorthanded goal was the wake-up call Woodstock was looking for all night and DeLuca decided to one-up himself with another goal moments later. Avery Riva and Will Liscomb added fuel to the fire as each scored within 1:17 of each other to add the exclamation point.

“It’s the best way to end it. It couldn’t be any better for the seniors and the core group,” Woodstock forward Ryan Black said.

Jeremy Fortin recorded the hat trick nine seconds into the third period to even the score at 3-3 for Hall-Southington, but his team could not build upon it and lost all momentum after giving up the shorthanded goal.

“I think when we gave up that shorthanded goal, our wheels kind of fell off,” Hall coach Brian Cannon told The Bristol Press. “We came out and scored that one right in the beginning and it gave us hope. I think we were looking good and then we kind of botched the power play and then they ended up scoring toward the end of it.”

Written by Chris Costa/HockeyClan


Main Image Photo Credit: Jeremy Useted

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