Ridgefield tops Darien in OT on McGuire's goal
STAMFORD -- At FCIAC Boys Ice Hockey playoff time, Ridgefield and Darien High play games that are classics.
The 2013 edition on Wednesday night at Terry Conners Rink did not disappoint.
After 53 minutes of hard skating, compelling drama and seemingly 100 great chances, Ridgefield junior forward Cameron McGuire put home a rebound with 5:28 remaining in overtime giving the Tigers a 2-1 triumph over No. 1 seeded Darien in the FCIAC semifinals.
The win means Ridgefield (17-5 overall) will defend its league title against St. Joseph on Saturday at 6 p.m. at Conners Rink. St. Joseph ousted New Canaan, 3-2 in overtime in Wednesday's earlier semifinal.
"We were on the power play and came in on a rush," McGuire recounted. "Chris Morrow and I saw the initial shot taken and we just crashed the net. And I was there for the rebound."
And the rest is another grand chapter of Ridgefield High boys ice hockey history.
It was a contest where Darien (17-3-2 overall) dominated the opening 10 minutes of play.
However, Ridgefield senior goalie Dustin Rausa (25 saves) made 12 saves on swarming Darien forwards to stablize the game and keep it 0-0 after one period.
"The first 10 minutes were a Darien barrage. I wasn't surprised because Darien has been playing like that all season," said Ridgefield head coach Shaun Gallagher. "Dusty got us through that. We needed to survive that. After the first period, our offense went to work."
There was no rest for Darien senior goalie Michael Collins. He registered 46 saves on the evening including 10 saves in the third period and 10 more in overtime.
However, Hathaway was in a massive collision two minutes later and did not return.
Still, his goal stood up until 6:19 remained in regulation.
Liam Smith was tenacious in the crease and beat Collins with McGuire and Chris Morrow earning assists for 1-1.
Ridgefield had been foiled early in the third period when Darien's Nicholas Tuzinkiewicz cleared a puck off the goal line.
The end-to-end skating continued in overtime. Morrow was stopped on a breakaway with 6:01 left, but drew a Darien penalty.
McGuire struck just 33 seconds into the power play, giving Ridgefield the rare chance to defend its FCIAC boys ice hockey crown.
"We had a large group of returnees on our roster. But we knew we would have to work so much harder this season to get back to the FCIAC championship game," McGuire said. "This was a great victory. And we're excited for the opportunity to be in the finals on Saturday."
As for Darien, which beat Ridgefield, 6-3 in the regular season on Feb. 16 with teams coming out of the snowstorm hiatus, it was a disappointing finish to the Blue Wave's league endeavors.
Darien head coach Chris Gerwig had a long talk with his players following the loss.
A talk where Darien likely rededicated itself to a Division I state tournament mission where there will be tough opponents, including Fairfield Prep in its path. Prep downed Darien, 6-0 late in the regular season.
And Hathaway's state tourney status is still to be determined.
But the Blue Wave went home knowing in their hearts they had played another classic with Ridgefield.
Ridgefield 2, Darien 1 (OT)
RIDGEFIELD 0 0 1 1 -- 2
DARIEN 0 1 0 0 --1
Records: Ridgefield 17-5 overall; Darien 17-3-2 overall.
Goals: R -- .Liam Smith, Cam McGuire. D -- .Brendan Hathaway. Assists: R -- .Chris Morrow 2, McGuire. Goalies: R -- Dustin Rausa (25 saves). D -- Michael Collins (46 saves).
Highlights: R -- Ridgefield meets St. Joseph for FCIAC title Saturday at 6 p.m. at Terry Conners Rink.