Hard work made Darien the FCIAC’s hardest team to beat during the regular season.
“It’s just something we’ve been working very hard since day one,” said Darien boys hockey coach Chris Gerwig, after his team took the FCIAC regular season title with a 5-1 win over New Canaan at home on Monday. “Last year we had a little bitter ending in our 3-2 loss to Ridgefield in the (FCIAC) final. So, our goal from the end of last season was to work hard and try to get back to be the No. 1 seed this year.”
We’re coming hard, we’re going to give it all we’ve got.
— Brendan Hathaway
With two goals from star-of-the-game Brendan Hathaway, a winner from Jack Knowlton that put Darien up 2-1 in the second period, an opening 1-0 tally from Nick Tuzinkiewicz in the first period and a closer from Connor Davis in the third, Wave Puck concludes the regular slate the league’s only undefeated team at 11-0-1.
“Pass, shoot, score — that’s all you can do at this point,” Hathaway said. “Put bodies to the net.”
“Coming from a defenseman’s perspective it was a pretty solid game,” said Wave top defenseman Dana Wensberg. “We were cleaning out the kitchen.”
Michael Collins made 19 saves in goal shining in his rookie year.
“I call him the brick wall,” Wensberg added.
Darien put 30 shots on goal.
Rams’ netminder Chris Koennecke kept the game from being a high yield blowout and made several bold stops — including one on Hathaway from the slot in the first period, and a showstopper with his glove in the second.
New Canaan tied it late in the first period on Stephen Mettler’s shot from the left point on a screen that went in low.
The Wave broke it open with three in the second period — all go-to-goal goals.
Holding territorial advantage over Darien for the first 10 minutes of the game — it was the Wave’s third in as many days — New Canaan didn’t get much of a look in either the second or third periods.
“We were able to put pucks to the net after that first period tie,” said Trent Bergin. “It started off with Knowlton putting the puck in the net and everyone started scoring after that.”
Bergin had two assists, Hathaway three points, Jack Pardue a helper and Aidan Loh an assist.
New Canaan looked to take retribution in the closing minutes, but ended up taking a pair of majors instead, one with under three minutes to go and another in the waning seconds when Nick Allam found a butt-end in his ear.
“Very physical, we had to play physical and we did,” Bergin said. “They were a little chippy in the end, we survived that.”
“So, at least we accomplished that goal to get the No. 1 seed,” Gerwig added. “It’s a nice achievement, but it’s a little one.”
Darien looks to stay undefeated over the next three games of the FCIAC Championship Tournament, unseat Ridgefield as league champ, and later, as No. 3 team in the D1, go for its first state final bid since 1969.
FCIACs start Saturday, match-ups, times and dates are yet to be released.
“Getting that FCIAC Championship is our main goal now,” Gerwig said. “We know where we stand.”
“We’re coming hard, we’re going to give it all we’ve got,” Hathaway added.
Darien improves to 16-2-2 only losing to top-team-in-the-state undefeated Fairfield Prep and No. 2 Notre Dame-West Haven, and being tied by NC before Christmas 0-0.
Darien was knotted by St. Joseph in a league game, on a night when the Cadets stung DHS for four power play goals on a major.
New Canaan goes to 12-5-2 overall and 10-2 FCIAC.
The Cadets (10-1-1 FCIAC) are in second place, third is NC, fourth Ridgefield (9-2-0 FCIAC), fifth Trinity (6-4-1 FCIAC), sixth Greenwich (7-5-0), seventh Westhill (4-7-1) and eighth Stamford (4-7-0).
“I’m just very proud of the boys,” Gerwig added. “Three games in three days, and against three very good teams.”
Darien beat the Tigers 6-3 away in a late game on Saturday night, topped a resilient Stamford 2-1 away on Sunday.
In his second season behind the bench, Gerwig and his coaching team has made short work of climbing into a nice place to start the postseason.
“It’s just a team thing — this team is very special,” Gerwig said. “There’s not one or two, or three or four guys that make a run — I mean, there’s 23 guys.”
Gerwig noted that this was a night when the team put three good periods together like it knows how.
“They all buy into what we are doing,” Gerwig said. “They all work hard at it, and we just seem to be getting better and playing better hockey at the right time”
Added Bergin: “We listen to our coaches, that’s when we play well.”