GREENWICH — Scoring the game-winning goal in overtime of a playoff game is a tough feat for a hockey player to top, but New Canaan senior Jack Johnson certainly did so today.
After sending the Rams to the championship game of the FCIAC Division I Boys Hockey Tournament with an overtime goal in the semifinals against Darien, Johnson produced quite a follow-up performance in final.
Johnson, a forward, recorded a hat trick to power fourth-seeded New Canaan to a 3-1 victory over third-seeded Greenwich in the championship game at Dorothy Hamill Skating Rink.
With the win, the Rams earned a sweet repeat. They defeated Darien for the FCIAC title in 2020.
“Jack scored our last four goals, he’s been amazing,” New Canaan coach Clark Jones said. “He has not only done an amazing job on the ice, he has also been a tremendous leader for the team — the voice of the team.”
Jack Johnson’s brother Beau, a sophomore goalie, was the MVP of the FCIAC Tournament last season, and today Jack was named the most valuable player.
“It’s so special winning back-to-back championships with my brother,” Jack Johnson said. “Beau is an amazing player. He had a great game.”
The triumph gave New Canaan its 20th FCIAC title overall. The Rams finished the regular season with a record of 5-6-1, but played their best hockey in the postseason, defeating Ridgefield, Darien and Greenwich to conclude the year 8-6-1.
“It’s been a crazy, weird year and we found a way to get it done late in the season,” Jones said. “It wasn’t perfect, there were a lot of bumps in the road, but they found a way to get it done. It was a matter of figuring it out.”
Greenwich (11-5), which entered the title matchup riding a five-game winning streak, was looking for its third victory against New Canaan this season. The Cardinals, who last won the FCIAC championship in 2016, posted 1-0 and 3-2 victories against the Rams during the regular season.
“We talked to the kids from the first day about overcoming adversity and they did,” said Greenwich coach Jack Duffy, who concluded his first season at the helm. “We talked to them between periods about it because we had some adversity in this game. I’m proud of how they behaved and how they worked. To be here in this game was a big accomplishment.”
The Cardinals faced adversity before the season began when their beloved coach, Chris Rurak, died in July at the age of 47.
“It was tough for all of us losing our coach and coach Duffy did a good job of bringing us all together,” said Cardinals defenseman Chris Cataldo, one of the team’s senior captains. “We dedicated this season to coach Rurak and we hope we made him proud.”
New Canaan took a 1-0 lead into the second period, then began the third period with a 3-1 advantage. Trailing 1-0, the Cardinals tied the score at 1-1 when sophomore defenseman Peter Lewis snapped a shot from just below the blue line on the right side, past Beau Johnson with 12:41 remaining in the second period. Junior forward Wes Zolin assisted on Lewis’ tally, which came with Greenwich on a power play.
The score didn’t remain tied for long, however. Just 24 seconds later, an open Jack Johnson finished in front at the right post, after receiving a pass from Luc Lampert, putting the Rams in front, 2-1.
“It was big it was a shift of momentum and it gave us the momentum right back,” the Rams’ Sam Ives said of Johnson’s go-ahead goal. “Jack played awesome and was unbelievable today. He was our star.”
In one of the game’s biggest plays, Johnson completed his hat trick, tallying off a rush with just two seconds remaining in the second period, giving New Canaan a 3-1 lead. Senior defenseman Boden Gammill, also one of the Rams’ captains, set up Johnson’s third goal.
“I saw Gamill near the wall and I looked up and there were six seconds left,” Jack Johnson said. “I screamed for the puck and just tried to get down the ice as fast as I could. Then I made a little play to the outside, ripped it and I was real happy it went in. That was a big goal, because it furthered our momentum going into the third.”
Said Duffy: “Both of those goals in the second period hurt, but that third goal with two seconds left hurt.”
Greenwich, which outshot New Canaan, 35-27, received 24 saves from junior goalie Charlie Zolin. Beau Johnson posted 34 saves. The host Cardinals had chances to tally in the third period, but Johnson made 14 saves.
“We talked about getting to 3-2, we played great in the third,” Duffy said. “We had a lot of opportunities and we were getting a lot of pucks to net, but Johnson was really solid. We just couldn’t get it by him for that second goal.”
Added Greenwich senior forward Sean Duffy, one of the squad’s captains: “They were really fast-paced and they finished on their opportunities. It was just a tough game.”
Jack Johnson opened the game’s scoring, tallying with 3:52 left in the first period, nine seconds into a Rams’ power play. Lampert and sophomore Shane Mettler assisted on the goal, which came right after a faceoff in the Cards’ zone.
Beau Johnson made seven first-period saves.
“It’s super awesome to win the title, especially going back-to-back,” Beau Johnson said. “We have so many seniors on this team, they led us so well.”
As for his older brother’s clutch performance?
“Out of anyone on the team he deserved it so much,” Beau Johnson said. “It was his time to shine.”