Top seeds New Canaan, Stamford/Westhill/Staples advance to FCIAC girls hockey championship

DARIEN — The FCIAC’s most prolific champion will take on a new kid on the block for the conference girls ice hockey championship.

No. 1 New Canaan and the second-seeded Stamford/Westhill/Staples co-op both pitched shutouts, with the Rams defeating Greenwich 2-0, and SWS knocking off Darien 3-0 in the conference semifinals Wednesday at the Darien Ice House.

New Canaan (20-0-1) and SWS (18-2-1) will face off for the FCIAC championship at 2:30, Saturday, at the Darien Ice House.

The defending champion Rams are making their fifth straight and 15th overall appearance in the league final, and also have a conference best eight championships. SWS, which has set a program record for wins in a season, will be playing in its first FCIAC final.

“It just feels amazing to make history in this program,” said SWS senior goalie Sydney Butler, who made 17 saves to earn the shutout against Darien. “We were just trying to have fun and trying to keep it light. If you take it too seriously, you’re not going to be able to compete out there. We went into this with an open slate.”

Butler will line up opposite New Canaan goalie Nikki Ferraro who, as a freshman, will also be playing in her first FCIAC final. Ferraro made 23 saves against Greenwich to get her ninth shutout.

“It’s definitely exciting, especially knowing I can finally contribute to this,” Ferraro said. “I’ve always watched New Canaan play in these games, so to be a part of it is a whole special feeling. I’m excited and we’re going to get it done.”

New Canaan outshot No. 4 Greenwich (10-6-1) by a 30-23 margin, but Cardinal goalie Emma Kunschner was outstanding, making 28 saves and only allowing two goals — one on a power play and the other during a 1-on-1 breakaway for Rams’ senior co-captain Kaleigh Harden.

“They always seem to have our number and play a very good game against us,” New Canaan coach Rich Bulan said of Greenwich. “We did a lot of really good things, we just couldn’t get the puck in the net at times.

“I told them after the game, this is how everybody is going to come and play us now.”

The Rams broke out on top five seconds into a power play with 5:42 remaining in the first period, when senior co-captain Jade Lowe deflected a shot by junior defender Amanda Benson, tipping the puck up and past Kunschner.

The Cardinals’ defense kept the deficit at one goal until late in the third period, when Harden won the puck near the top of the defensive zone and skated in untouched. She swooped in front and slipped the puck inside the right pipe for a 2-0 lead with 4:36 to play.

“It’s almost a crime that you have to watch,” Bulan said of Harden on a breakaway. “She’s just special and we’ve seen her do that many times before.”

“They played really hard,” Greenwich coach Brooke Heron said of her Cardinals. “I’m proud of the product we put out there, especially from first period to the second and to the third, elevating our game. We had chances, but sometimes we’re just not able to capitalize. But it was a good fight.”

In the second semifinal, SWS and Darien were close in opportunities — Darien had a 17-15 edge in shots — but the Wave were unable to find the scoring touch.

Freshman Anne Forker scored the first goal with an assist from senior captain Meadow Gilchrist 6:03 into the game and Gilchrist then set up another freshman, Kate Tortorella, for the second goal with 7:02 remaining in the second frame.

Tortorella also scored the final goal on an empty-netter with 1:55 to play.

“We’re just really excited and proud that they put it together tonight,” SWS coach Jon Fay said. “We knew it was in them. They’re a really talented, hard-working group and it was just great to see them get that success and that reward that their hard work put together tonight.”


Nikki Ferraro, New Canaan and Sydney Butler, Stamford/Westhill/Staples: Let’s hear it for the goalies. Each netminder was playing in her first FCIAC semifinal and each came through with a shutout. Ferraro made 23 saves, and Butler made 17. Scoring could be tough in the final.


“We just want to do the same thing and have a lot of fun. We’ve set so many (team) records this season, why stop now?” — Stamford/Westhill/Staples senior goalie Sydney Butler.; @dstewartsports


GREENWICH 0 0 0 — 0

NEW CANAAN 1 0 1 — 2

Scoring: First period: NC - Jade Lowe (Amanda Benson, Maddie Kloud), 5:42; Third period: NC - Kaleigh Harden, 4:36; Goalies: G - Emma Kunschner 28 saves; NC - Nikki Ferraro 23 saves; Records: Greenwich 10-6-1, New Canaan 20-0-1.

No. 2 SWS 3, No. 3 DARIEN 0

DARIEN 0 0 0 — 0

SWS 1 1 1 — 3

Scoring: First period: SWS - Anne Forker (Meadow Gilchrist), 8:57; Second period: SWS - Kate Tortorella (Gilchrist), 7:02; Third period: SWS - Tortorella (EN), 1:55; Goalies: D - Claire Haupt 12 saves; SWS - Sydney Butler 17 saves; Records: Darien 14-4-2; Stamford/Westhill/Staples 18-2-1.