Darien girls hockey falls to rival New Canaan in a thriller, 2-0

For the better part of four winters, the Darien Blue Wave had the clear advantage in its girls ice hockey rivalry with the New Canaan Rams.
The Rams, it would seem, have kicked the past to the side.
The two rivals put on a terrific show of hockey Wednesday night at the Darien Ice House, with New Canaan scoring twice in the third period for a 2-0 shutout victory over the Blue Wave .
It was the Rams’ second win over Darien this season — they took a 2-1 decision on Dec. 23 — and that first victory was a huge help this time around.
“Beating them the first time was definitely big because we kept talking about the mental block of not beating them at all, so that was gone,” senior co-captain Liz McCarthy said. “We just went into this game, played our game and did what we had to.”
“That first game was so evenly played, it was a tale of three bounces: We got two and they got one,” New Canaan head coach Rich Bulan said. “We knew that wasn’t going to happen tonight.”
Both Ram goals featured the freshman combination of Courtney O’Connell and Kelly Benson. O’Connell scored the first goal when she pinged a shot off the pipe during a power play with 10:42 remaining in the game, and Benson netted the second off a nice set-up from O’Connell with 4:48 on the clock.
The Wave played solid defense, led by Kiki Tropsa, Sally Cassidy, Catherine Martin, Cate Droogan. Goalie Hallie Kreppein made 19 saves and kept New Canaan off the board until the power play tally in the third.
The problem for Darien was hitting the net on offense.
“We couldn’t get any good penetration on their goalie,” Wave head coach Jamie Tropsa said. “We had some good shots, probably should’ve scored on one early in the second, but they played a great game defensively. You’ve got to give them a lot of credit. They took away our speed and we’ve got to learn how to break through that because other teams have done that to us too.”
New Canaan goalie Blythe Novick, another freshman, had a big night, collecting 21 saves, including a spectacular save on a breakaway attempt by Darien’s Shea van den Broek during the second period.
Darien outshot New Canaan 8-7 in the first period, although the Rams likely had the better chances, as Kreppein made a couple of nice saves on shots by Gianna Bruno and Quincy Connell.
The Wave had the better of play in the second stanza, as their defense bottled up New Canaan’s offense.
The best chance of the second period came on a breakaway by van den Broek, who faked a low shot to draw down Novick and then attempted to slip the puck inside the left post. Novick somehow got her leg out to block the puck and end the threat.
“Blythe was amazing,” McCarthy said. “She made that one save in the second period, and I don’t even know how she stopped it. She was just amazing.”
“She really is that calm in the storm,” Bulan said. “She just doesn’t get nervous, and she was great tonight.”
In the third period, the Rams took a 1-0 lead during a power play when Benson took a shot from the left circle which hit the far post. O’Connell spotted the rebound and sent it in for the goal.
Darien answered with some quick pressure, with Elise Maro taking the best shot from the circle. Novick, however, made the kick save to keep New Canaan ahead.
The Rams netted the second goal with 4:48 remaining, when O’Connell passed from behind the net to Benson in front for the score.
Darien wasn’t finished, and had a power play opportunity less than a minute later, during which van den Broek rang the pipe. The Wave was unable to solve Novick, however, as New Canaan took the win.
“Keep their heads up,” Tropsa said he told his team after the game. “They played a great game. We didn’t get the bounce of the puck and things didn’t go our way, but they worked hard, tried hard, and skated hard. They’ve got to learn from it and get better from it.”
“It was two very good teams playing with a lot of energy,” Bulan said. “I’ve said it from day one: Everything we need to win is in this room. That’s a very good Darien team and they just dismantled Hall/Conard on Monday night. They’ve built a great culture of winning and for us to do it twice, I don’t know what to say.”
New Canaan 2, Darien 0
Darien 0-0-0 0
New Canaan 0-0-2 2
New Canaan: Courtney O’Connell 1 goal, 1 assist; Kelly Benson 1 goal, 1 assist
Goalies
D – Hallie Kreppein 19 saves
NC – Blythe Novick 21 saves
Shots
D – 21, NC – 21
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Darien’s Sally Cassidy (22) gets out in front of New Canaan’s Quincy Connell during Wednesday’s girls ice hockey game at the Darien Ice House. — Dave Stewart photo

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