Wilton beats Ridgefield for regular-season sweep
During its first 11 seasons, the Wilton girls hockey team managed only one victory over neighboring rival Ridgefield.
Less than 11 games into the 2019-20 season, the Warriors now have three.
A lights-out performance from goalie Erin McMorris led the Wilton-Norwalk-McMahon co-op team to a 3-2 win over Ridgefield-Danbury on Friday afternoon at the Winter Garden. The triumph followed Wilton’s 7-3 win last month and gave the Warriors a two-game, regular-season sweep of the Tigers.
McMorris was the chief architect of Friday’s victory, turning away Ridgefield’s frequent shots as if they were dinner-time calls from a determined telemarketer. McMorris finished with 31 saves — several of those coming in the final five minutes, after the Tigers had closed within a goal and applied constant pressure.
“Erin was fantastic,” Wilton coach Pete Maxfield said. “Where she started the season and where she is now, she’s a completely different player. I couldn’t be more pleased with how she’s playing.”
Ridgefield controlled the beginning of the game and took a 1-0 lead on Zella Ertl’s goal less than two minutes into the first period. The Tigers also hit the post and had several shots stopped by McMorris during a subsequent power play.
“They were all over us at the start; we had trouble getting the puck out of our zone,” Maxfield said. “They don’t have as much depth this year ... but they have amazing skaters, so it was a testament to our girls that they were able to fight through that initial push that Ridgefield had and make that comeback.”
Wilton came to life offensively in the latter part of the opening period but was unable to beat Ridgefield goalie Reagan Bonadies (12 saves), whose best denial came when she used her pads to reject Caitlyn Hocker from right in front of the net.
The Warriors carried their improved play into the second period, tying the game when Kaelin Burke scored on assists from Ella Noonan and Isabel DiNanno at the 12:25 mark. DiNanno followed with an unassisted goal seven minutes later, putting Wilton ahead 2-1 through two periods.
“I think Meghan Lane, Kaelin Burke, Caitlyn Hocker, and Isabel DiNanno had great games and all the forwards contributed in their own way,” Maxfield said. “And I think the D [defensemen] were very solid. Leila Stacy has been fantastic for the whole season, and Grace DeCesare has been really good just anchoring that defense as a senior.”
Hocker’s conversion off a scramble pushed Wilton’s lead to 3-1 with 10:46 remaining in the final period, but Emily Stefanelli scored with 5:27 left to make it a one-goal game.
Although Ridgefield dominated the closing minutes, it was unable to get the equalizer. McMorris added a few more nice stops, and the Tigers also had another shot deflect off the post.
“If we had played the whole game like we did the last 10 minutes of the third period we probably would have come out on top,” Ridgefield coach Lauren Lubrano said. “We have a short-bench to begin with and then we had some injuries early in the game that seemed to throw us off a bit. The numbers game is hard for us.
“We only have a couple of lines and three [players] on defense,” Lubrano continued. “When one player takes a penalty or someone has to sit out that really hurts us for the game and we can’t seem to recover.”
PLAYER OF THE GAME
Erin McMorris, Wilton. The junior goalie kept Ridgefield scoreless for a long stretch that covered most of the first period, all of the second, and nearly the opening six minutes of the third. McMorris’s effort was main reason why the Warriors were able to overcome Ridgefield’s 33-15 advantage in shots on goal.
Wilton 0 2 1 — 3
Ridgefield 1 0 1 — 2
Scoring: Wilton - Isabel DiNanno (goal, assist); Kaelin Burke (goal); Caitlyn Hocker (goal); Ella Noonan (assist); Meghan Lane (assist). Ridgefield - Zella Ertl (goal, assist); Emily Stefanelli (goal); Kate Zangre (assist); Aubrey White (assist).
Records: Wilton: 4-5-1; Ridgefield: 3-8-0.