Schofield, Darien defense shut out Xavier
MIDDLETOWN — Sophomore goalie Chris Schofield had just finished off his second shutout in four games, a 3-0 Darien win at Xavier, and his captain kind of likes the way he’s playing.
“I think he’s playing out of his mind,” Darien captain Jack Massey said Friday night at Spurrier-Snyder Rink.
Schofield stopped all 18 Falcons shots as the Blue Wave improved to 3-1. The preseason No. 2 team in the GameTimeCT boys hockey poll, Darien has bounced back to win two in a row after a 5-2 loss to Hamden before Christmas.
Schofield played a few games last season behind all-state goalie Henri Pfeifle.
“It’s been pretty fun so far,” Schofield said. “It’s a great experience to take over and get started.”
It was a tight game until Darien scored two goals in 39 seconds with around five minutes to go.
Schofield stopped eight shots in the first as the preseason-No. 6 Falcons (2-1) counterattacked with speed at times against Darien’s puck-possession game. He made another seven saves in the second.
Darien held Xavier to three third-period shots.
“He did a great job with his rebound control,” Darien coach Mac Budd said. “That’s an improvement we’ve already seen from some of the games earlier this season. He’s handling the puck a lot better, an area of tremendous growth from last season.
“He’s a sophomore who I think is playing more like, kind of, a senior. He stepped into the starting role really nicely.”
Junior Ryan Solomon made 21 saves for Xavier, including 10 out of 11 in the first period. James Conway’s power-play wrister from the right circle opened the scoring midway through the period, moments after Schofield stopped Ryan Stafford’s short-handed bid.
The Falcons, who hadn’t played in nearly two weeks, were 2-1 overtime winners in their first two games.
“It was a very good hockey game between two good teams,” Xavier coach Karl Sundquist said. “We’ve got to find a way to put some pucks in the net. We haven’t scored three yet this season. Three’s the magic number. You get three, you’ve got a much better chance of winning.
“They’re a deep team, top to bottom. They took advantage of their chances and opportunities.”
Matt Fiorita won the puck in the left corner, then soon after wound up at the front of the net to tip in Luke Johnston’s shot for a 2-0 lead with 5:25 left. Johnston assisted on Danny Lowe’s left-circle shot 39 seconds later to finish it off.
PLAYER OF THE GAME
Darien sophomore Chris Schofield made 18 saves in a shutout.
Darien spent a lot of the first period in the Xavier end, and kept that up for other stretches Friday night, too. Budd said he thought Darien’s defense overhandled the puck in earlier games, but he liked how they moved it Friday, helping keep it in the other end.
“Everyone says possess the puck. It’s easier said than done,” Budd said. “I thought in particular (in) that first period, we wore them down and played a very good puck-possession game. I would’ve liked to get a few more shots through, but they were doing a good job collapsing around their goalie, blocking shots and making it difficult to get inside.”
The second period was much more even and moved quickly, even with three power plays.
“They’re top-three in my book. We saw them play against Hamden (a 5-2 Green Dragons win) and thought they were a good team,” Sundquist said.
“We settled down in the second period.”
“Our (defensemen) were terrific. They moved the puck well tonight, played a north-south game. You pitch a shutout, that says not only the goalie, but team defense as well.” —Darien coach Mac Budd
DARIEN 3, XAVIER 0
DARIEN1 0 2—3
XAVIER0 0 0—0
Records: Darien 3-1; Xavier 2-1. Goals: D—James Conway, Matt Fiorita, Danny Lowe. Assists: D—Luke Johnston 2, Max Sharp, Alek Garabet. Goalies: D—Chris Schofield (18 saves); X—Ryan Solomon (21). Shots: D—24; X—18.