The Darien boys lacrosse team has faced several huge challenges from great opponents this season. Each time, the Blue Wave has some how, some way, found their way to victory.
Darien survived and advanced yet again as it overcame rival New Canaan, 8-7, in a dramatic CIAC Class L semifinal game Wednesday at Rafferty Stadium in Fairfield.
Senior co-captain Logan McGovern scored the decisive goal with 2:31 remaining, after long poles Matt Gould and Charlie Olsen forced a New Canaan turnover on the defensive end.
McGovern, who had been stopped up close by Ram goalie Carl Mazabras in the third quarter, wasn’t about to let a second chance pass by.
“We executed a good 10-man ride, chased the long pole down into the corner — Charlie Olsen and Matt Gould showed great hustle getting the ball out,” McGovern said. “Hudson (Pokorny) got a great pass to me and I just wanted to finish that one because I got stuffed on the doorstep in the third quarter.
“I really wanted to finish that one.”
The victory extends the Wave’s winning streak to 76, and top-seeded Darien (22-0) advances to the state final for the fifth consecutive season. The Wave will face No. 6 Ridgefield (15-5) in the title tilt at 3 p.m., Saturday, at Brien McMahon High School.
For Wave head coach Jeff Brameier, Darien has some intangibles which allow it to push through tough games.
“The element is the character and the tradition of the program,” Brameier said. “They’ve had that bull’s-eye on their chests for a long, long time, they’ve had that streak sitting there, and they’ve been able to weather that storm. We’ve got one more to go on Saturday and we’ll be ready.”
The result was a frustrating one for New Canaan (15-5), which has consistently challenged the Blue Wave this spring. Darien defeated the Rams three times by a total of four goals this season — 9-7, 13-12 in the FCIAC final, and now 8-7.
“It’s a tough game to swallow,” New Canaan head coach Chip Buzzeo said. “I’m very proud of our team. No one thought of our team after the graduation year that we had, losing the class of 2017, no one gave us any credit going into this year.
“I think we proved everybody wrong.”
The two goalies — Mazabras for New Canaan and Sean Collins for Darien — were fantastic, as each came up with several big stops throughout the game. Mazabras made 10 saves and Collins 12.
Collins’ final save of the day was huge, as the Rams’ Will Rechtermann made a great feed to Chris Canet to the left of the net and Canet spun and fired to the far post. Collins made the fast grab with 1:13 remaining.
“Sean stood on his head and so did Carl Mazabras,” McGovern said. “(Mazabras) is an underclassman but he played huge for them today, and Sean was huge for us.”
“To New Canaan’s credit, they played a great game, won a lot of faceoffs again, possessed the ball and really put a lot of pressure on us,” Brameier said. “Thank God for Sean and the defense that played great and didn’t give up too many great shots.”
Both teams received great efforts from their defenses. Darien was led by poles Andrew Darby, Gould, Tyler Strub and Olsen; and New Canaan was led by poles Jackson Braden, Chase Strupp, George Dumbauld and Walker Ker, who was charged with keeping tabs on McGovern.
“They were great,” Buzzeo said of the defense. “We made a couple of switches and I thought they worked. We played Walker Ker down low for the first time and he covered McGovern really well; and Jackson Braden played phenomenal up the field. Walker’s been playing with a torn labrum and to cover McGovern with a torn labrum is a pretty heroic feat.”
Offensively, New Canaan was led by Quintin O’Connell, who had a hat trick and two assists. Liam Griffiths scored twice; Teddy Manges had a goal and an assist; Rechtermann had one goal; and Drew Guida and Crovatto each had one assist.
For Darien, McGovern and Pokorny each had two goals and one assist; Brian Minicus had two goals; Jack Joyce had a goal and an assist; and Ryan Darby scored once.
New Canaan received a stellar performance on faceoffs from Nick Crovatto, who gave the Rams the edge in possession time and allowed them to control the pace of the game.
“Nick Crovatto is the best player in the whole state, period,” Buzzeo said. “He’s not just a fogo, he’s the best player in the state of Connecticut.”
The game was a roller coaster ride, with the biggest lead being two goals twice for Darien: 3-1 late in the first quarter and 4-2 in the second. A goal by Griffiths off a beautiful feed from Guida with 1:52 seconds on the clock in the first half made it 4-3 at the break.
New Canaan gained the lead at 5-4 when Rechtermann and Griffiths scored in the first 7:25 of the third quarter, but the Wave answered.
Pokorny tied it off a feed from Blake Sommi, and Minicus powered in a bounce shot for a 6-5 Wave lead after three quarters.
Crovatto won the fourth-quarter faceoff, which led to a Manges goal, tying the game 31 seconds in.
Minicus made it 7-6 at the 1:20 mark, but Crovatto won the ensuing faceoff, and got the ball to O’Connell to tie the score at 7-7 with 10:18 remaining.
Both goalies came up big over the next eight minutes, before McGovern’s goal in transition put the Wave ahead for good.
“Any time you beat your arch-rival three times in a season, you’ve got to be proud,” Brameier said. “That’s a tough thing to do. We’ve beaten Wilton three times to get here; we’ve beaten New Canaan three times to get here; and now we may get Ridgefield for a second time (in the final). We’re just happy to be going back to the state finals and see if we can defend our title.”
“We definitely focused on coming out and making the hustle plays and that’s what won us the game,” McGovern said. “We’ve got to come out on Saturday fired up and ready to go,whether we get Glastonbury or Ridgefield, we’ve got to come ready to play.”
CIAC Class L Boys Lacrosse Semifinals – Darien 8, New Canaan 7
Wednesday, June 6, at Rafferty Stadium, Fairfield
New Canaan 2-1-2-2 7
Darien 3-1-2-2 8
New Canaan: Quintin O’Connell 3g, 2a; Liam Griffiths 2g; Teddy Manges 1g, 1a; Will Rechtermann 1g; Drew Guida 1a; Nick Crovatto 1a
Darien: Logan McGovern 2g, 1a; Hudson Pokorny 2g, 1a; Brian Minicus 2g; Jack Joyce 1g, 1a; Ryan Darby 1g; Blake Sommi 1a
NC – Karl Mazabras 10 saves
D – Sean Collins 12 saves