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‘Miracle’ Mites win A tourney in Mass.

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MIRACLE MAKERS: Mite A champs include (from left), front row, Kyle Patrick, Patrick Thurlow, Grafton Ely, Matthew DellaRusso, Ashton Healey, Henry Gregory, Jack Gifford; second row: Carter Hall, Andrew Gebicki; third row Gavin Moffatt, Brady Pokorny, Max Benson, Tauson Pfeifle, Charlie Coutts, George Foster, Josephine Williams; back row: Coaches Clute Ely, Matt Gifford, Rick DellaRusso and Mike Thurlow.

HOCKEY

Darien Mite A, sponsored by Connecticut Property Management, traveled to Marlborough, Mass. to compete in the NYHL Mite A Division and came home with its own “Miracle on Ice.”

This is the team effort we have been looking for all season.

— Coach DellaRusso

The group round saw the team first face off against the West Hartford Wolves. In the face of their opponent’s intimidating spectator support, the team trailed by a goal with just seconds left on the clock.

A scuffle in the Wolves’ crease led to Darien being awarded a penalty shot.

Kyle Patrick, cool as the ice, took the puck from the dot and with one quick move, unbalanced the goalie and buried the puck to secure a tie 2-2.

Next up were the Southern CT Stars, whose continued pressure kept Darien on their toes, but Darien grinded out a 3-1 victory, which put two points on the board.

Early next morning, the team took on West Haven’s Blue Devils. In a high-pressure game where the lead changed hands five times, Darien suffered the heartbreak of the Devils clinching the win, by just one goal, with 13 seconds to play.

The final score was 6-5.

At midday the team rallied and, with Gavin Moffatt manning the net, faced the Western Junior Colonials. Trading goals until late in the second, Darien finally got their legs back and got out in front, and didn’t let the Colonials back in the game.

With a final score of 6-2, Darien secured the second seed spot in the tournament final.

It was only fitting that Darien would again face the Devils in the finals, a team they had failed to beat in five previous attempts.

But this day would be different.

The team drew inspiration from the 1980 US Olympic team, who beat the unbeatable, by having a team showing of Miracle on Ice the night before.

Outworking the opponents from the first drop of the puck to the final buzzer, Darien believed.

Matthew DellaRusso stood tall in net the entire game, anchoring the team as he had in three of the four group games.

The line of Andrew Gebicki, Moffat and Josephine Williams were flying, generating pressure.

Ashton Healey was the first to light the lamp for Darien, with linemates Henry Gregory and Grafton Ely swarming the Devils and denying them any chance to back check. Healey out-muscled the defenseman and worked his way to the net lifting the puck over the goalie’s glove.

The efforts of defensive pair of Brady Pokorny and Jack Gifford on the blue line and their hustle in the neutral zone starved West Haven of the puck.

Charlie Coutts and Tauson Pfeifle stifled any offensive surges by the Devils and generated many offensive opportunities for their own team. The pair helped advance the puck, which led to Gregory’s goal in the second period coming from one of his trademark angles.

At the start of the third, with Carter Hall and Patrick getting the puck deep and marking their men, Patrick Thurlow pounced on a loose puck and buried it to extended the lead to 3-0.

With 7:30 to play, the Devils, down but not out, finally got on the scoreboard. George Foster and Max Benson defended with determination and the entire team never lost its focus.

Coach DellaRusso and his team of Ely, Gifford and Thurlow urged the players on, and with the crowd on its feet, the final buzzer sounded.

It was Darien 3, West Haven 1.

“This is the team effort we have been looking for all season,” said DellaRusso. “The team really came together today and played for each other, it was awesome to witness.”

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