GREENWICH — Having two quality goaltenders can sometimes be a liability based on the humility and maturity of the players, but depth has been perhaps the greatest asset for the Greenwich boys hockey team.
And coming off the busiest week of the season, two fresh players in net was never more vital.
Playing for the fifth time in seven days, against an opponent it has lost to in the previous two conference championships, the Cardinals rode the goaltending of Ben Nash and timely scoring of Ivan Kovalev to a 2-1 win at Dorothy Hamill Rink.
“Our de corp is great, our goalies are good,” Greenwich coach Chris Rurak said. “I don’t think we’ve given up more than two or three goals a game. The kids are buying into the de zone coverage. (Nash) made some incredible saves.”
There were no more than four combined goals scored in Greenwich’s last four games.
Greenwich (9-5-1) gave up a season-high five goals in the Outdoor Classic and four in a win over Immaculate the next outing, on Jan. 4. It has not yielded more than three since.
“We’ve been working hard at it,” Rurak said. “We tell the boys our third period is the best and it has a lot to do with our depth. When we can run four lines the first two periods and clamp down in the third it goes according to script. This was a good effort.”
Nash was spectacular — and needed to be as he was tested often and matched by the Tigers’ Matt Silliman, who was deserving of a better fate.
“A lot of guys on defense are stepping up in new roles,” Nash said. “They’ve been playing very well for me. Keeping guys away from me and letting me see shots.”
The deciding goal was scored by Kovalev at the end of a power play 52 seconds into the final period. From there both goaltenders and defenses took over in a lively and fast-paced game with few penalties.
“Credit goes to Greenwich for coming out strong in the first period,” Ridgefield coach Shaun Gallagher said. “They definitely outplayed us in the first. Their goalie made some key saves. Our goalie made some good saves too. The difference in the game is them converting on a nice power-play goal. Us not finding the urgency to bury one at the end.”
Kovalev put Greenwich ahead with a nice shot at 3:26 of the opening period and Will Stewart answered with a high shot at 10:25 after good work and an assist from Kees van Wees.
From there the Cardinals did the things that has led to an eight-game in-state winning streak — they went 0-1-1 over the weekend on a road trip to face Rhode Island’s two top teams.
Kovalev, a sophomore, continued his clutch play.
“He played a really good game tonight, one of the best I’ve seen, and he has a really good supporting cast around him,” Rurak said. “They feed him the puck and work well together. It’s a true team effort. Our de is distributing the puck in a way he can do something with it and it all starts from there, and his linemates help him out.”
Greenwich and New Canaan are the last two unbeaten teams in league play. The Rams face Darien in another big game Saturday. None of the four teams has jumped out as a decided favorite or underdog.
“We picked it up in the second but there are loose ones in the front we need to clean up and that is the difference in the game if we are going to win games,” Gallagher said. “We’re going to have to start getting to the loose ones and the second chances in front and start putting them in.”
The Cardinals have just one game over the next six days.
“The team is playing very well,” Nash said. “We had a couple of tough games in Rhode Island but look to keeping getting wins against in-state teams and hopefully make a run at the two tournaments.”