A year ago, when Darien girls hockey coach Jamie Tropsa said goodbye to his FCIAC and state champion team, he lost the best senior class ever to don the blue-and-white sweaters.

Despite that, the 2016-17 Blue Wave didn’t miss a beat, repeating as state champs.

While some names in the rotation stayed the same, most were new, including a freshman class that turned what could have been a rebuilding year into more hardware for the program.

As is tradition with coaches, Tropsa was hesitant to compare the two classes.

“It’s hard to say,” Tropsa said. “They’re different. When you have a freshman like Georgia Cassidy and Chandler Kirby I hate to relate them together. It’s a hard question to answer.”

And it’s made even harder based on the numbers this class put up.

Katie Daileader was second on the team in points with 26 and lead in goals with 19. Claire Knight had 14 points, Kit Arrix scored 11 goals, Caitlin Chan had 11 points and Cate Droogan tallied nine assists.

Even goaltender Hallie Kreppein, who was stuck behind All-State goalie Emily Gianunzio, recorded two shutouts and a .933 save percentage in limited minutes.

“Because Emily was in front of her, you didn’t see a lot of her,” Tropsa said. “But she’s going to be a good goalie in the future, she’s going to have a very good three years. It was good for Hallie to watch Emily for a year, when Emily was a freshman she played a little bit but watched for a year too.”

As the year went on, Tropsa’s confidence in the group grew.

No moment more embodies that faith than with one minute left in the state semifinals. In a tie game, with a title game berth on the line, Darien had five girls out there, four of which were freshmen.

“They earned that every day in practice,” Tropsa said. “We worked a lot on the power play and I had them out there as a group, and that’s a talented group. I had people that really rose to the occasion and did a really good job as the year went on, and they had been doing that all year so they earned that right to do it in a playoff game.”

While this class was certainly unique, Tropsa believes a new tradition of strong freshmen classes is just beginning—and not just in Darien.

“I think you’re going to see a lot of that,” Tropsa said. “Greenwich had a very unique freshman class, and you’re going to see that popping up on a lot of teams. There’s a lot of good youth programs…so next year Greenwich is going to get a few, New Canaan is going to get a few and we’re getting a bunch more. Our freshmen class next year will have between 10-14 kids depending who comes to DHS, so it’ll be very interesting to see how it all pans out.”

As for this class going forward, they’ve already played in the highest-pressure situation this level has to offer. They were key contributors to a championship team, and that may very well be the theme of their four years at DHS.

“They played a lot of tough games, and in some tough situations that will help them for the future,” Tropsa said. “They learned a lot this year I think, so it’ll be interesting to see how they all move forward. They’re all very competitive kids, that freshman class is as competitive as it gets, so I’m looking forward to big things from them in the future.”

aparelli@bcnnew.com @reportedbytheAP