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RIDGEFIELD — It took just one Darien miscue for Ridgefield to find its footing.

Tied at one in the third, No.15 Darien got called for a cross-check. The second-ranked Tigers needed just seven seconds to capitalize on the power play, and added another tally less than a minute later.

Ridgefield added an empty-netter for good measure and went on to beat two-time defending champion Darien 4-1 in the opening round of the Division I state tournament at the Winter Garden Ice Arena in Ridgefield on Wednesday.

“We were fighting them off for a while,” Ridgefield coach Shaun Gallagher said. “We scored quick on the power play and you can see after that goal we were flying, we were all over them after that.”

On Saturday, the FCIAC champion Tigers will battle Fairfield Prep, the last team to win the Division I title before the Blue Wave. Ridgefield split the season series with the Jesuits at a game apiece.

“They’re going to be ready to go,” Gallagher said of Prep. “They’ve been in this position many, many times. They’re a good program, they’re well coached and they’re definitely going to be ready — so our job is to make sure we’re just as ready.”

Ridgefield looked ready in the first against Darien, playing fast and physical and drawing first blood at the 3:45 mark on Will Forrest’s rebound tally.

The second was all Wave, but Ridgefield goalie Sean Keegan was up to the task, making 13 saves in period two alone.

“I was just focusing on playing my game and being ready for every shot,” Keegans said of stymieing the Darien push. “My defense did a good job of keeping the shots outside so that was a big help, it’s just about having a playoff mentality.”

Keegans has had no problem with that mentality. After playing stellar in the regular season and helping his team to a conference title the senior has earned the reputation as one of the best netminders in the state.

“I think I’m doing a really good job tracking the puck,” Keegans said of his postseason success. “And I’ve been doing a pretty good job controlling my rebounds, which is huge.”

Early in the third, on Darien’s fourth power play of the game, Keegans failed to control a rebound and Alex Kostrzewski was there to send it home for the Blue Wave, tying the game at 1-1 at the 13:28 mark.

At the 7:15 mark, Ridgefield got its first power play and took advantage when Jack McGeary tipped in a Matteo van Wees shot to go up 2-1.

Just 58 seconds later Forrest got his second of the game on a rebound in front and Landon Byers twisted the knife at the 1:40 mark with an empty netter.

“They’re not No. 1 in the state for no reason,” Darien coach Mac Budd said of Ridgefield. “If you make a mistake you’re going to pay for it. They popped two goals in quickly and that was the game.

“That’s the way a lot of games have gone for us where we hang very tough and come up a little short.”

While Darien did come up short for much of the season, Budd was still happy with the way his team battled after losing 18 players from a season ago.

“I’m very proud of our guys,” Budd said. “And I think the progress we’ve made throughout the season is just tremendous and I’m happy a lot of the other coaches see that as well. I’m happy with how it all turned out.” @reportedbytheAP


DARIEN 0 0 1—1


Goals: D—Alex Kostrzewski; R—Will Forrest 2, Jack McGeary, Landon Byers. Assists: D—James Gregory; R—Jack Stafford, Matteo van Wees, Nick Cullinan. Goalies: D—Brendan Bumgardner (29 saves); R—Sean Keegans (29). Shots: D—30; R—33.