Greenwich outduels Prep, advances to CIAC Div. I hockey semis

Ian Fulton skates out of the defensive zone. (Dave Stewart/Hersam Acorn Photo)

Ian Fulton skates out of the defensive zone. (Dave Stewart/Hersam Acorn Photo)

Greenwich High’s Kristian Cunningham raced down the right side of the ice, took a pass from Colin Kelly, and beat Fairfield Prep goalie Jack Taubi with only one minute and eight seconds off the clock in the top-seeded  Cardnals’ 5-2 victory over the ninth-seeded Jesuits in the Division I hockey quarterfinals at Webster Bank Arena in Bridgeport on Saturday.

Greenwich (18-1-2) will play 17-4-1 No. 4 seed Glastonbury, a 3-2 double overtime winner over Notre Dame of Fairfield, in the semifinals on Wednesday at Ingalls Rink in New Haven.

The Cardinals scored their second goal in an unusual fashion.

After giving Prep (9-11) a man advantage after being called for high sticking, Montana Larson raced out of the penalty box and took a pass from Aiden Connerty. He slotted the puck home to make it 2-0 at the 9:17 mark of the opening frame.

GHS doubled its advantage in the second stanza.

First to find the back of the net was Cunningham. After taking a pass from Brian Silard, the junior made a great move to create space and scored only one minute into the period.

Prep then saw GHS commit two overlapping penalties to give the Jesuits a 5-on-3 edge for 27 seconds, only to be denied.

A cross-checking penalty on Prep gave Greenwich its only man advantage — for 58 seconds — and Silard made the most of it when the senior scored unassisted at 7:23 of the second to push the score to 4-0.

Prep’s John Edmonds gave his team some new hope when his skimmer from the blue line beat GHS goalie Bryan Archino with 5:07 left to play in the period.

Prep picked up its pressure, but Archino made a great save with 4:18 left and then stood tall against a barrage of shots that hit every place but the net.

Cunningham missed getting the goal back when he missed to the top shelf, but Archino made a blocker save on Will Schlichtig 30 seconds later with 1:28 remaining.

Archino’s glove save on Vincent D’Amore came with 22.6 left. Christopher Brown won the ensuing draw, however, and sent it back to D’Amore, who ripped a shot toward the net.

Prep’s Justin Blanchette was positioned perfectly, toed the ice and the puck kicked off his blade and past Archino. The goal with 17.8 on the clock made it a two-goal game with 15 minutes still to be played.

Prep had momentum and the first five minutes of the third period would be telling.

The Jesuits kept the puck in the offensive end and Archino faced multiple shots in the first four minutes, and then Prep went on a power play five minutes in.

Greenwich, with Kevin Piotrzkowski,  Matt Lodato, Kelly and Connerty playing standout hockey all game, found a way to kill it off and the game settled down from there.

“I thought we came out flat in the third, almost like the second period in the FCIAC final (where the Cards led Darien 2-1 after one period and lost 5-3),” Greenwich head coach Bob Russel said.

“We got some energy back and Archie made the great shot on the tip.”

Inside three minutes, Prep’s Ryan Deering’s spinning move in front set up Schlichtig, who redirected his shot only to have Archino tip it wide.

“This was such a big win over such a good program like Prep,” Piotrzkowski said. “It’s the first time in a long time we’ve been to a state final. Archie did an amazing job.”

Archino said, “We talked about having the right mindset (putting the FCIAC final in the rearview mirror).

“They (Prep) came out the way they wanted to (in the third period). I was fortunately able to keep them out.”

Prep head coach Matt Sather said, “Their defensemen did a fantastic job blocking shots….that glove save on the tip, the kid ate it up.”

“We have a lot of pride here. We have a lot of new faces, but pride is bred into the school, the culture of the program.

“These kids aren’t going to quit and as a coach that is all you can ask for.”

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