All the pieces were finally in place Wednesday evening for the Greenwich High School hockey team after a brutally frustrating season. It was the first time since the team's opener that the Cardinals had three healthy lines and a full contingent of defensemen. For the first 29 minutes of the Division I state tournament matchup against undefeated New Canaan, Greenwich played its best hockey all season.
Then in a flash, the season slipped away. New Canaan exploded for three goals in less than 45 seconds just before the horn to close the second period. The powerhouse Rams improved to 24-0-0, eliminating Greenwich, 5-1.
"It's not in our DNA to score a lot of goals, so we knew if we were going to win, it would have to be 1-0," Greenwich head coach Bob Russel said. "Considering what we've dealt with this season and the injuries we've had, the guys played a courageous game. These guys have had to work hard for everything this season."
Greenwich knew it would have to play its absolute best to compete with the top-ranked team in the state. The Cardinals did just that in the first period. By focusing on defense, Greenwich outshot the Rams 7-3. But even Greenwichs best hockey could not stop New Canaan for long.
Ricky Piper did everything he could to keep his team in the game with a valiant 35-save effort in net, but New Canaan's ace shooters Reed Harper and Dylan Hart proved to be too much. Hart snapped the scoreless tie with 1:10 to play. Reed Harper awoke from a two-game scoreless stretch, snapping two goals in the next 45 seconds.
"We knew we had to come out and play defense first, then offense," Piper said. "We did it throughout the whole game, but it was just that one minute that killed us. Everybody on the team played hard and did the best they could."
Eric Macken scored the Cardinals' lone goal on a nice breakaway late in the third period. Greenwich finishes a frustrating 2010-11 campaign at 7-12-2.
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