New Canaan wins nailbiter over Darien to advance to FCIAC finals
Then New Canaan finally started to manage some sustained pressure on a powerplay early in the third period. The Blue Wave did all they could to keep the dangerous Rams' powerplay at bay, but with just 12 seconds left on the man advantage, Darien finally surrendered the lead.
Charlie Corcoran fed the puck to Reed Harper, and the New Canaan sniper lifted the puck over the glove of Rothston to give his team the 1-0 lead, which also represented the final score of the contest.
"Charlie made a great pass, and I was open in front of the net. Charlie moved it across, their D collapsed and I caught their goalie moving laterally and I got a quick release to beat him on the short side," Harper said. "To come through and score that goal is a great feeling."
Immediately following the New Canaan goal, Darien coach Larry Vieira called his timeout.
Darien applied tremendous pressure in the game's waning minutes, but ultimately, Nowacki was up to the challenge of keeping the puck out of the New Canaan net for the full 45 minutes.
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Darien's best opportunity to get the equalizer occurred with 1:50 remaining. Darien's Richard Gregory made a deft centering pass to Garren Fritts, who put the puck on net, but Nowacki deflected the puck away for another clutch save.
"We knew coming in that we were one of the only teams that's kept New Canaan to a one-goal, two-goal game," Darien's Richard Gregory said. "Everyone felt like we were eventually going to get one [goal], but give credit to Nowacki. He played well, especially in the last few minutes of the third period."
With under a minute remaining and Darien having pulled Rothston, New Canaan cleared the puck the length of the ice, and it trickled just wide of the empty Darien net for an icing call with 48 seconds left. On the ensuing faceoff, Darien's Brendan Hathaway unleashed a shot from the point, but Nowacki reached up to glove it and freeze the puck.
The Rams managed to kill off the remaining time without yielding another quality Blue Wave scoring chance.
The first two periods were a virtual stalemate, which featured big hits and big saves from both teams.
"I didn't think New Canaan had a real big jump in their legs at first, so I thought that maybe this would have been our night," Vieira said. "But, again, New Canaan has been finding a way to win all year, so my hat goes off to them."
In the first period, Corcoran got a partial breakaway and unleashed a slapshot that was gloved out of the air by Rothston. Corcoran got another chance 29 seconds into the second period when he tried to deflect a centering pass from Dylan Hart. Rothston was able to trap the puck between the legs, though he seemed to be unsure where the puck was as he looked over his shoulder after making the save.
Just 30 seconds later, Gregory took a snapshot which was partially blocked by Nowacki, who was able to jump on the loose puck before Gregory could get there to capitalize on the rebound.
"[Nowacki] is as cool as they come. Nothing bothers him," New Canaan coach Bo Hickey said. "He plays like he's a fifth-year senior."
New Canaan's Ryan Begoon rang a shot off the outside of the post just minutes later, but the teams were still scoreless at the end of the second stanza, which set the stage for Harper's heroics in the third.
The win kept New Canaan's perfect record in tact, and puts them in Saturday's FCIAC Championship game at Terry Connors Ice Rink at 4 p.m. New Canaan will play St. Joseph in the title game.