Ferraro, Tully propel New Canaan girls hockey past rival Darien

DARIEN — The biggest question mark facing the New Canaan girls ice hockey team this season was how it would handle the graduation of four-year All-State goalie Blythe Novick.

Welcome, freshman Nikki Ferraro.

Making her first start against rival Darien, Ferraro delivered a superlative performance with 30 saves to help the Rams remain undefeated with a 3-1 victory Monday night at the Darien Ice House.

Senior co-captain Caitlin Tully scored twice, including the go-ahead goal with 10:16 remaining, to help New Canaan (8-0) push its winning streak to 18 games. The Rams have also won their last four meetings against the Blue Wave.

New Canaan coach Rich Bulan said that Ferraro has impressed him with her show-no-fear attitude.

“She’s replacing a four-year starter who was four years All-State and All-FCIAC first team and that’s hard,” Bulan said. “But this kid’s got the temperament and the ability. Her teammates love her, she loves them and she fits in perfectly. She’s a goaltender and she gets it.”

“It was so exciting,” Ferraro said of the win. “I'm the type of person who lives for these games and it was really cool. Blythe was here last year and I know Darien’s a big game, so I wanted to fill her shoes. I just played like myself out there. I wasn’t really worried too much and just had fun.”

The loss was the first of the season for the Blue Wave (4-1), and came after a 21-day stretch without a game.

“I liked our effort,” Darien coach Jamie Tropsa said. “We need to compete a little harder for the full three periods. At times we did a very good job, especially considering we hadn’t played in almost a month, and we really didn’t practice much either. But overall it was a great game.

“I wish we could play them 10 times a year because I think both teams would get a lot better.”

Both Ferraro and Darien goalie Claire Haupt (29 saves) were outstanding. The game was scoreless for nearly 20 minutes and was just 1-0 in favor of New Canaan after two periods.

Tully netted the Rams’ first goal when she tipped in a shot by Jade Lowe with 5:33 remaining in the second period.

Darien tied the score courtesy of two freshmen when Mallory Clark deflected a shot by Parker Krotee 2:57 into the third frame.

New Canaan wasted little time regaining the lead, as Tully won the puck out of the corner and kicked it in after it bounced off a defender’s skate.

Tully said she and her linemates Lowe and Maddie Kloud were determined to regain the lead.

“Our line really works well together,” Tully said. “We were sitting on the bench and we said we’re going to get this next one. And we went out there and got it.”

Kaleigh Harden then iced the win when she chipped a breakaway shot past Haupt with 5:38 remaining.

Throughout the game, Ferraro was in perpetual motion, keeping active to stay focused on the puck.

“I run off adrenalin and try to always stay in the game,” Ferraro said. “Even on whistles, the constant movement really keeps me going. If I am constantly moving I don’t overthink anything.”

After the win, Bulan tipped his cap to Tropsa and the Wave.

“We’re not going to get anything over on them; we’re going to work for everything,” Bulan said. “The guy is the best coach I’ve ever known. Game-in and game-out he gets his players ready.”

PLAYER OF THE GAME

Nikki Ferraro, New Canaan: The freshman goalie collected 30 saves, including several of the acrobatic variety, in her first career start against rival Darien.

QUOTABLE

“These are the most fun games and these are what we look forward to. We knew we had to come out and bring it tonight.” — New Canaan senior co-captain Caitlin Tully

david.stewart@hearstmediact.com; @dstewartsports

NEW CANAAN 3, DARIEN 1

New Canaan 0 1 2 - 3

Darien 0 0 1 - 1

Scoring: Second period: NC - Cailtin Tully (Jade Lowe, Maddie Kloud), 5:33; Third period: D - Mallory Clark Parker Krotee), 12:03; NC - Cailtin Tully (Lowe, Kloud), 10:16; NC - Kaleigh Harden (Maddie Tully), 5:38.

Goalies: NC - Nikki Ferraro 30 saves; D - Claire Haupt 29 saves.

Records: New Canaan 8-0-0, Darien 4-1-0.