For Darien boys hockey, the new season that begins with a visit by Hamden on Wednesday, is as much about who is in uniform as it is about who will never be donning the ‘D’ again.
The nevermore player is two-season All-State starting netmider Max Rothston who graduated last spring.
“This is the way it’s shaping up: in goal we’ve got one senior in Michael Collins who right now is the odds on favorite maybe to be our starter,” said Darien coach Chris Gerwig, in his second year. “I’ve got a junior, Mike Colon who was on jv last year, and was also very good.”
And Darien’s well in goal is deep, with a senior back for tryouts and making it in Christian Miller.
We’re pretty strong defensively.
— Chris Gerwig
“So right now I’m in the kind of predicament, like last year, where we had three really good goalies,” said Gerwig, with Rothston acing out classmate Hunt Bartram, a guy who would have started and excelled with any other team in the county, and the able Collins waiting his turn in 2011-12. “It could be a little more balanced. I don’t know if I have that one guy.”
But before long it will be apparent that Darien could be in for a happy circumstance. Rothston replaced an All-State netminder in Will Love, who helped — like tires help a car reach its destination — the Wave make its last trek to the state semis three seasons back.
And before him, there was a steady rolling out of goalies who made the high grade. The mantle of Darien’s Next Great Goalie is up for grabs. Who will take it?
“I’m not saying that these guys aren’t the caliber of Max Rothston, because they are,” said Gerwig. “But you know, they don’t have much experience playing varsity games. And with our demanding schedule, it could be a little new to these guys.”
As always, the Wave goes into the kiln of a killer slate to start the season, looking to forge it’s roster into some hard stuff as the FCIAC schedule proper gets going in the new year.
After Hamden at 3:45 Dec. 12, the Wave has West Haven at DIR 5 p.m. Dec. 15, New Canaan 4 p.m. Dec. 19 at home as well, and finishes its longest home stand start to a season in many years against Notre Dame Fairfield 7:30 p.m. Dec. 22.
Darien’s first two games of 2013 are at Notre Dame West Haven then South Windsor.
“I think we are in great shape,” said Gerwig. “It’s going to be a great test because of our first six games. You know, once again, we are going against the big boys.”
And Darien has a rare regular season clash set-up vs. Fairfield Prep Feb. 13.
Who is still in uniform — some returning big guns up front — should more than allow for the new starters in net to find their feet; and if things click, could, more than compensate for the loss of the All-Stater Rothston, and, make every team around the FCIAC wish for an All-Stater in their own goals this winter themselves.
Seniors Brendan Hathaway, Trent Bergin, injured in the FCIAC final vs. Ridgefield last year, and Jack Knowlton are each probable net-fillers, while together, have it in them to smother the cage in black.
“Those three guys were my leading scorers (last season),” Gerwig said. “So I’ve got my top three scorers coming back, which is great.”
Senior Dana Wensberg heads up a defense — as a blue liner most likely to prompt opponents to keep their heads up — that is going to be very hard to beat.
“On defense we are pretty sound,” said Gerwig. “Wensberg coming back, junior Nick Allam, Jack Massie, Kevin Love returning as well as sophomore Nick Tuzinkiewicz. So you’ve got five D returning, which is big.”
Darien had three underclassmen make the team on the blue line.
“We’re pretty strong defensively,” Gerwig added. “And it will also help our goaltenders too, I think. Because having some experience in front of them can kind of calm the storm.”
The Wave loses nine to graduation, and of them, it’s more than Rothston who will be missed. Nick Bruno and George Gregory’s production will have to be made up, as well as Bruno’s grit. But there’s plenty of grit to go around with this crew. Just ask Wensberg.
The defense will hanker for Class of 2012 All-State Hank Glick, though, who like Bergin, was out for states, hampering the Wave’s chances as it went down narrowly 3-2 to Glastonbury in the D1 quarters at Yale last March 10.
Darien went 17-7 overall last season and was 11-1 FCIAC.
Captains are Bergin, Hathaway and Wensberg this season.
“I also have four returning (forward) starters,” said Gerwig of what’s in the pipeline in addition to Hathaway, Knowlton and Bergin.
They are juniors Tommy Watters, Robbie Juterbock — following in the skate blades of former impact players, big brothers Mike and JD — Owen Koorbusch and Connor Davis.
“So I have some depth up front,” said the caoch. “It looks like we are getting some good depth in all areas.”
Memories are even deeper.
“Disappointing ending there, losing to a very, very good Ridgefield team,” said Gerwig of last year’s FCIAC final. “And I think that stuck in the back of the kids’ minds. They’ve worked very hard in the off-season to try to climb back to get to that title game and maybe have a different result this year.
“The potential’s there to have a really good team.”
Like last year, only spoiled, it seems, by injuries to a top defenseman and a top-three forward.
“There are a lot of good things going on, but the key is to stay healthy,” Gerwig added. “You need a little luck, let’s face it. Everybody needs a little luck to win a championship.”