Freshman Jennifer Kelly has emerged as quite a playmaker in her first season on the Greenwich High School girls ice hockey team.

Kelly has scored several clutch goals so far this season and her tally Wednesday kept the Cardinals’ hopes of qualifying for the FCIAC Tournament alive.

Scoring with 10 minutes, 18 seconds remaining in the third period, Kelly helped lead Greenwich to a 1-0 victory over the Stamford-Westhill-Staples co-op squad at Stamford’s Terry Conners Rink. The top four teams earn a berth in the FCIAC Tournament and entering Wednesday’s matchup, Stamford-Westhill-Staples was in fourth place in the conference, while Greenwich stood in fifth.

Following the triumph, the Cardinals are 6-6 in FCIAC play (12 points) and 9-8 overall. Stamford, which beat GHS, 4-3 in overtime on Jan. 12, is 7-6 in the FCIAC (14 points) and sports an overall record of 11-8.

“It’s a very important win for our team,” Kelly said.

“They were four and we were five going into the game, so it’s going to come down to the end of the season between the two teams. We all worked hard and got the win.”

Sophomore goalie Jessie Aselin made 13 saves for the Cardinals. Meanwhile, junior Claire Parry stopped 22 shots for Stamford-Westhill-Staples, which celebrated Senior Night.

“Claire kept the game close,” SWS coach Phil Miolene said. “She is the anchor for us — we work off her positive attitude. No matter what is going on, she does her job. I’m very happy with her performance. We had a lot of pucks that didn’t bounce our way.”

Scoreless in the third period, Kelly made the play the Cardinals were seeking. Creating a turnover in Stamford-Westhill-Staples’ zone, Kelly freed herself up by skating to the right. Then, from the right faceoff circle, she snapped a shot past Parry to the stick side inside the left post, making it 1-0 with 10:18 remaining.

“I forechecked hard and got a lucky bounce,” Kelly said. “The puck got on my stick, I shot it and hoped for the best. It was a very even, back-and-forth game.”

Said GHS coach Alex Lerchen: “She (Kelly) has that ability at times to drive to the net and rip it on goal. She is a good playmaker. This was a game of will and hard work. You had that feeling it was going to come down to one play at the end.”

The home team outshot Greenwich 9-3 during the first period and went on a power play 3:30 into the period. But Aselin kept it a scoreless game, making nine saves. Sophomore Stephanie Walsh and sophomore Erin McGroarty helped create Stamford-Westhill-Staples’ first period pressure.

“Throughout the year we have progressed and have become a lot more comfortable in moving the puck,” Walsh said. “We have a couple of injuries and didn’t play as well today, but our goalie was phenomenal. We have to refocus and be ready for our next game against Trumbull.”

Shots were few and far between for SWS during the second and third period, as the Cardinals enjoyed the possession advantage. The visitors held an 11-2 shots-on-goal edge in the second period, as Kelly, sophomore forward Riley Ellsworth, sophomore defender Jennie Piotrzkowski and senior forward Erika Hvolbeck each put shots on net. Meanwhile, the Cards clamped down defensively behind seniors Claire Eschricht and Lisa Lewis and Piotrzkowski.

“Every win is huge for us, because we want to try to get that fourth spot for the FCIAC Tournament,” Eschricht said. “We all played so well. Today, we had a short bench, so the key to the game was heart.”

Said Lerchen: “Defensively, we know what needs to be done. We were clearing pucks when we were supposed to — I’m very proud of the work our team puts in.”

Prior to the game, SWS honored seniors Juliana Ferraro, Rachel Stanford, Abby LaFleur and Lauren Mitchell.

“They mean a lot to our program,” Miolene said. “All of them except Rachel came to the program without a lot of hockey experience, so it’s been nice to see them work on their skills and make an impact.”

Aselin knew she had to be at her best in net for the Cardinals.

“I had to stay on my feet and stop everything coming my way,” Aselin said. “I knew one play could make the difference,” so I just tried to follow the puck and not let anything in.”

david.fierro@scni.com; 203-625-4423

GREENWICH 1, STAMFORD- WESTHILL-STAPLES 0

GREENWICH 0 0 1 — 1

STAMFORD 0 0 0 — 0

Goals: G — Jennifer Kelly; Goalies: G — Jessie Aselin (13 saves); SWS — Claire Parry (22 saves).