Wherever the Darien boys ice hockey team ends up this season, one thing is for certain: The Blue Wave certainly isn’t setting up any easy opponents.
Three days after taking on Rhode Island’s defending state champion La Salle Academy, the Wave was back at it, skating to a 3-1 victory over perennial Connecticut power Hamden Saturday night at the Darien Ice House.
All the scoring came in the third period, with Darien getting two goals from Sean Bradley and an empty-netter from Sam Erickson on the way to victory.
The result evened both teams’ records at 1-1 after one week of action, and there’s no let up for the Wave, who took on Fairfield Prep (0-1) Wednesday, at the Ice House.
The early-season gauntlet of opponents will hopefully pay dividends for the program come playoff time, and even beyond.
“I’m trying to make this the best hockey experience that I can for the high-level player who would like to play for the high school team,” Darien head coach Mac Budd said. “If I can give them a good hockey experience, it will help us to keep more of these players here and they’ll feel they can achieve what they want to achieve. Sometimes, we go out of state, and there are also a number of great teams that are in state.”
Unlike the 3-2 overtime loss against La Salle, Saturday’s game was more of a defensive battle, as the two teams were scoreless through the first two periods.
Darien’s blue line was led by senior co-captain James Gregory, junior Jack Massey, sophomore Matt Stein and freshman Nick Lancaster, among others.
The offensive floodgates opened in the third, with the puck finding the net four times in the final nine minutes.
“It was another great game,” Budd said. “The style was a lot different than La Salle, which was much more of a free-wheeling, open, end-to-end game. Hamden is a very, very good team and I suspect they’ll be one of the top teams in the state.
“What stood out to me was the lack of scoring in the first two periods which is somewhat unusual for a high school game. A lot of that had to do with very good defensive zone coverage by both teams.”
Bradley opened the scoring with a goal off a nifty pass from Erickson with nine minutes remaining. Erickson intercepted a clearing attempt by Hamden to start the play, and skated through the circle before slipping a pass back to Bradley. Bradley then whipped the puck high into the goal for a 1-0 lead.
Hamden tied the score less than two minutes later when Eddy Fracasso scored with assists from AJ Luedee and Michael Gethings.
That tie was short-lived as Bradley put Darien back in front, 2-1, with 6:02 remaining. Erickson again set up the shot, with Bradley firing the puck off the glove of goalie Don Moorcroft and into the net.
Erickson and Bradley accounted for the final goal as well, dishing the puck back-and-forth before Erickson scored into an empty net with just over a minute to play.
The line of Bradley, Erickson and Jamison Moore, all sophomores, has been exceptional so far, scoring all three goals on Saturday and accounting for four of the Wave’s six goals this season.
“Their line has played at a high-level of youth hockey and they’re skilled, hard-working players,” Budd said. “It means a tremendous amount for the team to get three sophomores not only with skill but with the willingness to work hard and do what it takes to get the job done. They’re fun to watch.”
Two games into the season, coach Budd likes what he’s seen from his Blue Wave players.
“There’s a lot of energy,” Budd said. “The big thing is that we have some skilled players and the character of the team has been fantastic. They’re working hard in practice, paying attention to detail, and it’s showing through in the games.”
Darien 3, Hamden 1
Sat., Dec. 15, at Darien Ice House
Hamden 0-0-1 1
Darien 0-0-3 3
Hamden: Eddy Fracasso 1g; AJ Luedee 1a; Michael Gethings 1a
Darien: Sean Bradley 2g, 1a; Samuel Erickson 1g, 2a