It’s been quite a while since head coach Jeff Brameier has addressed his Darien boys lacrosse team following a defeat.
Throughout their amazing streak of 76 victories, the Blue Wave always seemed to find a way to overcome their opponents. This time, despite a valiant rally in the final four minutes, the Wave was one goal short.
The Ridgefield Tigers played a slow-paced, possession-oriented — some would say “ugly” — style and worked it to perfection for a 9-8 victory over Darien in the CIAC Class L championship game Saturday at Brien McMahon High School.
The loss is Darien’s first since the 2015 season and ended a run of four consecutive state championships. The Wave finishes the season with a 22-1 record and a fifth straight FCIAC championship.
“One of the hard things about being in the position we’ve been in with the winning streak is we’ve never had to face this kind of adversity,” Brameier said. “Part of the reason you play sports is life lessons — things don’t always go them way you expect. This is not the time anybody wants to learn a life lesson, but I feel this shows how to survive and get through disappointments of your life and move on.”
For Ridgefield, it’s the third CIAC championship in program history and the first since 2011, when the Tigers bumped Fairfield Prep 11-10. Ridgefield had lost to the Wave 11-6 during the regular season.
While the Wave lost, they provided some late drama as their offensive attack lit up, scoring five goals in a span of one minute and 44 seconds.
Brian Minicus started the rally with an unassisted goal with 3:39 to play and Tanner Strub, who began to dominate the faceoff circle, regained the ball for the Wave.
Jackson Peters scored with 3:23 to play, and Hudson Pokorny found the net with an assist from Logan McGovern to make it 9-6 with 2:58 remaining.
Henri Pfeifle then scored two consecutive goals 36 seconds apart, closing the gap to 9-8 with 1:55 remaining.
“This team knows — six goals, five goals, four goals — they can do that in a heartbeat,” Brameier said.
Darien had couple of chances with the ball in the final minute and a half, but couldn’t find the net. A pass from Minicus to McGovern to the left of the pipe was controlled, but no shot was open. McGovern threw it back in front, but the ball was battled around before being cleared by the Tigers, who began their celebration.
“It was a great testament to their character of battling back from what was one of the largest adversities they’ve all year, and actually have an opportunity to tie the game and take it into another faceoff or another overtime,” Brameier said.
Pokorny led the Wave’s scoring with a hat trick and one assist, Pfeifle had two goals, and McGovern had a goal and an assist. Minicus and Peters scored once apiece.
For Ridgefield, Weston Carpenter scored a game-high four goals, Dawson Muller had a hat trick and two assists; and Dearth had a goal and three assists.
“Ray Dearth had a tremendous game,” Brameier said. “He probably won’t be in the stat book as much, but he was very much a part of the whole thing with carrying the ball, attacking our short sticks. And then Wes Carpenter had four goals and set the tone for them. Dawson had a great game as well and obviously their defense played well against our guys.”
The Tigers’ game plan against Darien was simple: Gain possession, possess the ball, don’t take chances, and look for the open shot. They were also aided greatly by a strong performance from Luke Gaydos in the faceoff circle, and the fact that they gained a multi-goal lead in the second quarter.
Darien had the game’s first lead when Pokorny scored 48 seconds after the opening faceoff, and Carpenter and McGovern traded goals six seconds apart later in the frame as the wave carried a 2-1 lead into the second quarter.
In the second, the Tigers had the ball for most of the quarter, scoring five goals to take a 6-2 lead at halftime. Carpenter and Muller each scored twice in the second, and Dearth had the other goal.
That continued in the third quarter, as John Mathes scored the only goal, with an assist from Muller, at the end of a seven and a half minute possession.
“You have to tip your hats to the way Ridgefield played and their game plan of slowing it down, frustrating us, and keeping the ball out of our offensive hands,” Brameier said. “They have a good defense and they forced us into some things that we didn’t want to do early, just because we got behind.”
Needing to regain possession in the fourth quarter, Darien attempted to force the issue with goalie Sean Collins leaving the cage. During that time, Ridgefield scored twice into the open net, while Pokorny scored once for the Wave.
Down 9-3, the Wave went on its late run, but fell one goal short and tasted defeat for the first time since 2015.
“It’s one of those things, not having had to live through it in over three years, it’s a hard thing,” Brameier said. “But we’ll use this hopefully as motivation for the underclassmen and work our way back, like anybody who didn’t win today. There’s only one winner and this is the first time we haven’t been it in five years.”
CIAC Class L Boys Lacrosse Final – Ridgefield 9, Darien 8
Saturday, June 9, at Brien McMahon HS
Ridgefield 1-5-1-2 9
Darien 2-0-0-6 8
Ridgefield: Dawson Muller 3g, 2a; Weston Carpenter 4g; Ray Dearth 1g, 3a; John Mathes 1g
Darien: Hudson Pokorny 3g, 1a; Henri Pfeifle 2g; Logan McGovern 1g, 1a; Brian Minicus 1g; Jackson Peters 1g
R – Dan Parson 3 saves
D – Sean Collins 5 saves
R – 20; D – 25