New Canaan girls hockey downs SWS co-op, takes 3rd FCIAC title in 4 years

Rich Bulan has coached plenty of champions during his 20-plus years with the New Canaan girls ice hockey team. Sometimes, even he has to admit, he’s in awe of what they can do.

New Canaan continued its spectacular run by capturing its third FCIAC championship in four years with a 5-1 victory over the Stamford/Westhill/Staples co-op Saturday at the Darien Ice House.

A senior and a freshman led the way, with the senior, co-captain Kaleigh Harden, netting a hat trick and earning MVP honors, and the freshman, goalie Nikki Ferraro, collecting 29 saves.

The Rams (21-0-1) pushed their unbeaten streak to 33 games (32-0-1).

“The year we’ve had and what we’ve had to do to maintain this and keep this pace going and play the way we have — I’m just so proud of this group,” Bulan said. “They have goals and they just go at them like there’s no tomorrow.”

The New Canaan seniors have now won three league titles, bookending their careers as FCIAC champions.

“It’s really special winning it as freshmen and then winning it again as seniors,” senior co-captain Caitlin Tully said. “It’s really full circle, and special beyond compare.”

New Canaan, which beat Darien 2-1 in overtime to win the title last year, added to its FCIAC-leading total with its ninth conference championship.

In contrast, the SWS co-op (18-3-1) was playing in its first FCIAC final after a groundbreaking year.

Even while trailing New Canaan by three goals after two periods, SWS continued to skate hard and outshot the Rams 13-3 in the third period and 30-24 overall.

“I couldn’t be more proud of the way the team responded today,” SWS coach Jon Fay said. “They played their hearts out the whole time, they were fired up, and they were excited. We’ll see what happens from here in the states.”

Sophomore defender Lexie Tully teamed up with Harden to get the Rams on the board first. Tully went coast-to-coast and slid a pass across to Harden for a one-timer from the slot at the 5:20 mark of the first period..

“Lexie’s amazing,” Harden said. “She’s one of the best defenders I’ve ever played with. That’s the kind of the thing we’re always working on. We keep someone in the high slot and it’ll be open, she made a great pass and I just had to tap it in, so all credit to her on that one.”

Maddie Tully, a freshman, made it 2-0 early in the second period, and Harden then weaved through a pair of defenders and back-handed a goal for a 3-0 lead.

Bulan called Harden’s goals “daggers.”

“(Great players) love big moments, and they don’t shy away at all,” Bulan said.

SWS came out firing in the third period and eventually scored with 11:43 remaining. Freshman Alex Hackett had the goal with assists from senior Piper Fine and freshman Kate Tortarella.

Ferraro, who had a shutout against Greenwich in the semis, came through under pressure, making 29 saves overall, with a dozen coming in the third period.

“There were a few saves down there that were insane — I don’t know how she made them,” Harden said. “She’s amazing and we’re so glad to have her this year. She saved our butt and I think she had one of her best games.”

The Rams capped the win with two late goals. Senior Maddie Kloud scored the first, with Harden then completing her hat trick with 2:29 remaining.

“It’s tough playing (New Canaan),” Fay said. “They take advantage of every opportunity they get, and they certainly did today. We outshoot them and they come away unfortunately on the other side of the score. Hats off to New Canaan and those girls; they’ve got some really talented players.”

As the final seconds ticked off the clock, Harden said the feeling was “surreal.”

“We’ve been working so hard for this and to see the hard work pay off is awesome. We had a good regular season, but the postseason is what matters. Stamford’s a good team and we knew we were going to have to play our best to win.

“We did the job, so I’m super proud of everyone.”


Kaleigh Harden, New Canaan: The senior forward started and finished the game’s scoring, earning a hat trick and taking MVP honors. Harden scored four of the Rams’ seven goals in two tournament games.


“We’re really a family, these girls are all my sisters and I really feel that’s why we’ve been so successful. This team is something special and that part of it is untouchable. We always have the energy to keep going and do it for each other.” — New Canaan senior co-captain Caitlin Tully; @dstewartsports



SWS 0 0 1 — 1

NEW CANAAN 1 2 2 — 5

Scoring: First period: NC - Kaleigh Harden (Lexie Tully), 9:40; Second period: NC - Maddie Tully (Grace Crowell, Alla Duane), 12:55; NC - Harden, 1:55; Third period: SWS - Alex Hackett (Piper Fine, Kate Tortarella), 11:43; NC - Maddie Kloud (Caitlin Tully), 3:27; NC - Harden, 2:29.

Goalies: SWS - Sydney Butler 19 saves; NC - Nikki Ferraro 29 saves.

Records: SWS 18-3-1, New Canaan 21-0-1.