Although the final score will show that the Greenwich High School boys ice hockey team upended FCIAC rival New Canaan 6-3 Monday afternoon at the Dorothy Hamill Ice Rink, the contest against the Rams was far from the easy outcome that the scoreboard showed.
However, it’s an outcome that head coach Bob Russel and the rest of the Cardinals are thrilled to pick up.
“We always have a big rivalry with New Canaan and so there’s always a little more at stake,” Russel said. “This was an important game for us and there were some really good things that happened for us today. We haven’t had to play from behind, so we haven’t felt as much pressure as we did today.”
Big Red picked up two goals each from brothers Alex and Mike Mozian and Ben Pratley came through with a clutch goal to break the 3-3 tie midway through the third.
With the game knotted a 2-2 to start the second period, the Rams took the 3-2 lead 1:06 into the third, when Drew Morris connected on the power play goal in front of GHS goalie Nick Buzzuto.
For a team that’s not used to being down, especially in the third period, Russel was concerned how his team would respond.
“I thought we played a really solid first period and controlled the game,” Russel said. “After their [go-ahead] goal there was a little bit of panic in our game, but ability to settle down was great. Every time they scored to take the lead, we responded within probably 30 seconds and that’s big in terms of momentum.”
However, the NCHS lead didn’t last long. With only 1:04 gone by since the Rams grabbed the lead, Aiden Connerty dished the puck to Mike Mozian at the center line. Mozian then faked out several New Canaan defenders, skated in and buried his goal to tie the score at 3-3.
“This feels great,” Mike Mozian said. “I know we were down for part of the game and I don’t think we have gone into a third period being down. That was a challenge for us and I think we worked really well. Those goals were crazy and I can’t even describe that feeling. We are still undefeated and that’s amazing. Part of this win was trying to protect that.”
From there, it was Pratley’s turn to shine. After Big Red went on a power play, via a cross-check penalty with 8:32 to play, they were able to control the ensuing faceoff.
After bringing the puck into the New Canaan zone, Pratley gained control and the top of the blue line and uncorked a blistering shot that scorched through the NCHS defense and found the top corner of the net for the 4-3 advantage with 8:13 to play.
“It felt great,” Pratley said. “Other than the goal, I didn’t think I played great. We went into the third and this was a big show of character. We knew the team that wanted it more would come out with the win. It’s pretty funny because games before I have had that shot so many times. I would try to slap shot it and whiff or miss the net. This time I lined it up perfectly and it felt great. I had the chance to get the shot off and I got it right in the perfect place. It’s awesome.”
And this wasn’t the first time in the game where Greenwich came storming back. With the score tied 1-1, New Canaan’s George McMahon got the pass from Brooke Gammill to give the Rams a 2-1 lead with 4:53 to play in the second period.
But before New Canaan could blink, the Cardinals answered. After winning the ensuing faceoff, Greenwich went on the attack and pressured the Rams’ zone. That’s when Alex Mozian grabbed the rebound from Mike Mozian and Akira Dunham’s attempts at pushing the puck past NCHS goalie Peter Windas and knotted the score at 2-2 with 4:35 showing on the clock.
“It felt great because we have been working really hard and it’s nice to see that pay off,” Alex Mozian said. “We got a little stunned after that goal, but we had to really work on countering their forecheck. After their goal we scored right away on the next shift and it felt great to come back with a goal.”
For Russel, seeing his team come back several times in the contest and not get down on themselves was something that made the head coach smile from ear-to-ear.
“It’s a game of momentum, so if you can respond quickly to those situations, it’s very helpful,” Russel said. “I want to know that we have a team, even if it doesn’t happen right away, that we are going to be patient enough to hang in there. We need to go through more of these games where we are behind. You want to face it because you don’t want to experience that for the first time when you’re in the state championship game.”
Greenwich started the game in dominating fashion, controlling the majority of the first period. With 18:20 to play in the opener, Alex Mozian fired a shot that just missed the right side of the net. However, a little over six minutes later, Greenwich powered up the lamp.
On a play that started at center ice, Connerty dished the puck to Durham, who started the 2-on-1 break. Durham passed to Mike Mozian, who quickly found the back of the net and gave GHS the 1-0 lead.
“Mike Mozian played an unbelievable hockey game,” Russel said. “He really was a force out there. Not just because he made a big play out there and scored a goal, but defensively he controlled the puck, managed the puck and used his body at the right time. He was really good and one of the best high school hockey efforts I have seen in quite a long time.”
And the pressure didn’t let up. Two minutes later, Big Red had another golden opportunity, as Jack Geary had a steal at the blue line and fired at the net, but the NCHS goalie was there for the glove save.
Although Greenwich was at the attack a lot during the opening period, Buzzuto was put to work late. With 1:20 to play, Shane Pickering uncorked a shot from the blue line, but Buzzuto was there to calmly make the save.
With 13:14 to play in the second, GHS was on the power play, but that didn’t bother New Canaan’s Drew Morris, as he stole the puck and sprinted up the ice for the 1-on-1 chance with Buzzuto. However, the GHS goalie stood tall, didn’t bite on the Morris fake and made the clutch save.
Buzzuto finished with 25 saves for Big Red, while Windas made 22.
With the victory, Greenwich upped its overall record to a perfect 6-0 mark.