Just how big was it to come out and cut down Hamden in game-one of the season?
The dimensions of Darien boys hockey’s 2-1 win on Wednesday at DIR can best be measured in time — lots and lots of it.
“I mean, as a freshman we never beat them, as a sophomore, never beat them, as a junior never beat them,” said Brendan Hathaway, who scored the opener early. “So it feels good to beat them my senior year.”
Darien won it on Tommy Watters go-to-the-net effort on the power play in the third.
“That’s a nice little feat to get that one under our belt,” second-year Wave coach Chris Gerwig said.
It’s more like a feat for the ages to get what could be the best season in a Wave ice-age under way. But, just what duration of ages precisely has it been since Darien did last beat Hamden?
More stunning than a number, this win takes on the flavor of lore — nobody can remember quite when the last time was.
“That’s a good question,” Gerwig said. “I’ve been hearing all kinds of things. So for me to say, unfortunately I can’t.”
That’s from the first coach, who could — beat Hamden — and suffice it to say, for just a very long time.
Hathaway flicked the puck in, and from the goal line on the right side, with what looked a little like a sleight of hand trick, only 31 seconds into the new season for a 1-0 lead.
There was nothing slight about the result. Already, the writing was on the rink wall in letters everyone could read: the Wave had come to play.
“It was great to have that spark,” said Hathaway. “I just whacked the puck out of the air, got a good bounce and it went into the net.”
Trent Bergin had the assist.
But if Darien had come to play, Hamden, a perennial state title contender, was not about to go home.
The Green Dragons (0-1) scored on the rush off a blast from the right circle to knot it up with 5:26 left in the first period.
Only that was as far as Wave senior first-year starting goalie Michael Collins (20 saves) would let the visitors go.
He made an early second period stop on a shot one-timed from right out in front to keep the game even. It appeared to be his toughest, on a night, when Darien cleared rebounds like wind sweeping debris from the street.
“My defense was great,” said Collins. “Everybody backchecked.”
Darien put 23 shots on goal.
Collins, strong in this one in taking over for an All-State goalie of two years in Max Rothston (DHS 2012), didn’t have any opening night jitters for long.
“I was a little nervous at first, but once we got that 1-0 lead I settled in,” he said. “And I think the team really came together.”
“It’s still a feeling out process,” Gerwig said of his three-goalie rich bench. “It’s just one of those things where we are going to take one game at a time. It’s not like I’m going to plan a schedule for them.”
Darien’s best goalie all-time, perhaps, Alex Kremer, who moved on to Taft after starting with the Wave in the last decade, and then tended goal at BC, is back on board as goalie coach.
“He was a phenomenal outstanding goalie,” said Gerwig. “He really knows how to break down a goalie’s performance and see what strengths and weaknesses are.”
Collins is strong on his angles and stingy down low, in Kremer fashion.
“Now we seem to be leaning with Michael,” Gerwig said. “But obviously a win of that caliber in your first real big start as a goalie for the program, it’s nice. It’s satisfying to everybody — to him — for the team to say, ‘hey, we’ve got a guy who can step in and get us a W.’ Which he did.
“I thought he really made some big saves when we needed it.”
Darien killed a penalty early in the third.
And the Wave had its chance with the extra man with just less then 10 minutes to go.
That’s when Watters struck.
Watters went to the net and took a feed from Owen Koorbusch on the left side, scoring into a gaping net with 9:30 to play in the third period. The goalie favored Koorbusch like he was No. 5’s own shadow, leaving the middle of the net a place for breezes, and the puck.
“I just got lucky going through the neutral zone,” said Watters, a junior. “Owen gave it back, and I buried it.”
It looked like it could go 3-1 when Dana Wensberg made a nice solo effort to the net, stickhandling his way past three defenders, cutting in from the left side, but was stopped with about three minutes to go.
The scoring may not be overwhelming this season, or in time, it just might: the senior line of Hathaway, Bergin and Jack Knowlton could prove to be one murderers row of goal-getting.
The one-time checking though — early checking if you’re the other team — both up and back — but especially up — is what right out-of-the-gate makes the Wave a most dangerous D1 team to meet.
Darien’s four-game season-starting home stand vs. quality foes continues with a visit from West Haven on Saturday.