Greenwich hockey rolls past Iona Prep, 6-1

Greenwich High School forward Makenzie Larson looks to put the puck past Iona Prep goalie Nick Buongiorno during Monday afternoon's game. — John Ferris Robben photo

Greenwich High School forward Makenzie Larson looks to put the puck past Iona Prep goalie Nick Buongiorno during Monday afternoon’s game. — John Ferris Robben photo

It’s seems like the Greenwich High School boys ice hockey team is finally finding its groove.

After blanking the Fairfield Ludlowe/Fairfield Warde combined ice hockey team 1-0 over the weekend, Big Red backed that performance up with a stellar 6-1 victory over New Rochelle’s Iona Prep on Martin Luther King Jr. Day at the Dorothy Hamill Ice Rink.

Greenwich High School goalie Nick Bozzuto makes the save during his first varsity start against Fairfield. — Avery Belicka photo

Greenwich High School goalie Nick Bozzuto makes the save during his first varsity start against Fairfield. — Avery Belicka photo

“This game gave our team a lot of confidence,” senior captain Mark Schmeiler said. “We had a bunch of tough games in the beginning of the season, so to win a big one like this is huge. Because they are a Division I team, we get nine points and that’s awesome for us in the standings. We are all feeling really good and something like this and the game against Fairfield will give us the confidence for when we play those tough games coming up.”

In a complete team effort, six different Cardinals tallied goals in the victory, as Ian Fulton, Matt Lodato, Luke Finneran, Makenzie Larson, Kristian Cunningham and Colin Kelly each found the back of the net.

“Wins are hard to get some times, especially when you’re young,” Greenwich head coach Bob Russel said. “We had a lot of one-goal losses this season and some times people start to wonder if it will ever go our way. To have the mental toughness to win a 1-o game is really big. Today our first period was our best and we played really well positionally. We scored more in the second, but I think we broke them down a little bit and that made things easier. Momentum is a big thing and hopefully we can build from this and get better.”

While the offense was firing on all cylinders throughout the game, Greenwich sophomore goaltender Nick Bozzuto continued his winning ways. Against Fairfield in his first varsity start, Bozzuto finished with 30 saves and the shutout victory. Against Iona Prep, Bozzuto saw 13 shots in the first two periods and finished with 20 in the game.

“I thought our defense played very strong today,” Bozzuto said. “I think our confidence as a team is growing and we are getting more scoring opportunities, breaking down defenses and coming out strong. I felt good all day.”

Russel said that Bozzuto was solid throughout the game and especially early in the game when Greenwich was searching for their first goal.

“He really made some key saves for us at the right time,” Russel said. “He keeps things simple and uses his big body to get square to the puck. We have been playing good defense in front of him, so we are minimizing second chance opportunities. He also took away the first chance opportunities and that was very important to us. Even after a long idle period, he came across and made nice saves. The team is feeling is confident in front of him.”

With both teams trying to feel each other out early, it was Big Red that struck first and they did it in a big way.
With 7:27 to play in the opening period, Kelly fed Fulton, who fired a shot from the left side of the net that beat Iona goalie Nick Buongiorno high for the 1-0 lead.

However, less than a minute later, the Cards struck again. With Schmeiler and Larson advancing the puck towards the Iona Prep net, Lodato was able to get a stick on the puck in front of the net and push it home for the 2-0 lead.

“We are a team that gets a lot of goals right now,” Russel said. “We are young, so this was a real plus to score all those goals today. To get a quick two-goal lead like that, it allows everybody to relax. Everybody handles the puck a little better and the defense handles things better. We got a chance to get everybody in. When you’re winning and you get to play everybody, it definitely is a pretty good day.”

Big Red wasn’t done, as they scored three more times in the second period.

Midway through the frame, the combo of Van Duyne and Tommy Rogan advanced the puck to Finneran, who blasted a shot deep in the slot that eluded Buongiorno for the 3-0 lead. A little over three minutes later, Larson struck gold. After Schmeiler blasted a shot at net that was saved, Larson was able to grab the high rebound in front of the net, settled the puck and score the goal with 5:05 left in the second.

Cunningham rounded out the scoring in the second period, as the GHS forward got control of the puck from just inside the Iona Prep circle and backhanded a rocket shot that screamed by the Iona Prep goalie for the 5-0 advantage.

After the Gaels were able to get on the board with 9:46 to play in the third period by scoring on the power play, Greenwich rounded out the scoring when Michael Mozian sprinted down the ice with Kelly on the 2-on-1 break. Mozian passed the puck across the goalie crease to Kelly, who easily beat the goalie for the 6-1 lead.

In addition to Bozzuto’s outstanding performance between the pipes, the Greenwich defensive unit of Tommy Rogan, Kevin Piotrzkowski and Kelly had a good time making sure the Gaels didn’t get that many quality looks at the net and also started the transition game.

Also pitching in on defense was Ben Van Duyne, Eamon McHugh, Aiden Connerty and Ernie Bello.

“When we are in control, our defense is really good,” Russel said. “If we are not, this team isn’t big and solid so we aren’t going to win a bunch of physical battles, then we are in trouble. It’s much better for us to get the puck, possess it and do smart things with it. We did a good job of that today, especially in the first period.”

Greenwich will be back in action Wednesday when they travel up to the Shelton Rinks for a game against St. Joseph High School. On Thursday, Greenwich returns home for a battle with the Norwalk/McMahon combined hockey team.

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