New Canaan upends rival Darien to advance to FCIAC championship game

NORWALK -- With both goaltenders putting on nothing short of a keeping clinic, scoring plays were at premium when long-time rivals New Canaan and Darien met in the semifinals of the FCIAC tournament at Brien McMahon High School on Tuesday.

In the end, the No. 2 Rams turned away the third-seeded Blue Wave for the second time this season, this time by a 5-3 margin in a game featuring just a pair of second half goals, one by each team.

With the victory, the Rams advanced to Friday's FCIAC title game, also at McMahon High School at 7 p.m., against No. 4 Greenwich, a 6-5 upset winner over top-ranked Ridgefield Tuesday night.

"We knew how strong our D is and how strong Trent (Nader) is in net," said New Canaan's Henry Stanton, who scored three goals. "I had no idea we could keep them to three, but our defensive coach teaches them well, and you can't ask much more from the D."

The Rams, the defending conference champions, now stand one victory away from back-to-back titles for the fist time since 1987-88.

"We prepared differently because (Darien) was running more zone defense," New Canaan coach Chip Buzzeo said. "So we ran five different zone offenses tonight trying to see what would work. A couple of them worked, and we were patient of offense, which is a good defense. But that's a very good zone."

New Canaan (16-2), which did not trail in the game, got on the board just 2:27 in when Teddy Bossidy passed to Stanton, who blistered a mid-range shot into the Darien (12-7) net for the early 1-0 lead.

Just 42 second later, Darien drew even when Peter Lindley scored after receiving a pass from John Reed to knot the game at 1-1.

After being robbed by Darien goalie Phil Huffard on his bid to get the lead back, Stanton scored on a wraparound goal with 2:53 remaining in the first quarter to give the Rams a 2-1 lead heading into the second.

"We certainly had our opportunities on the offensive side. We didn't possess the ball as much, but when we did, we certainly had shots. I thought Trent played a great game for them," Darien coach Jeff Brameier said. "One goal here or there, and it could have been a different story, and I think Trent was the difference today. He stopped a lot of point blank shots, some good shots."

Two minutes into the second quarter, New Canaan doubled its lead when Michael Kraus found Pete Johnson, but Darien countered with a goal of its own just a minute-and-a-half later when Reed scored unassisted, cutting the Rams lead to 3-2.

Lindley took a strong shot that could have pulled Darien even, but he was stopped on a clutch save by Nader.

"Trent doesn't get the recognition because he's got the two best defensemen in the state of Connecticut playing in front of him in (Eric) Persky and (John) Rhudy," Buzzeo said. "Trent is awesome. Period."

With 1:51 remaining in the first half, New Canaan extended its lead back to two on an assisted marker by Bossidy, making the scored 4-2 in favor of the Rams at the break.

Lindley brought his team back to within one with 4:05 left in the third after taking in a pass from Kevin Seiler to make it 4-3. Bossidy was denied by the crossbar late in the quarter.

After more than 14 minutes of scoreless play, Stanton notched the hat trick for an all-important insurance goal with the Rams operating on man-up advantage.

New Canaan got the ball back with 1:10 remaining and ran the clock down to 16 seconds before Darien could get possession, sealing the win.

"I think everyone knows we've got a great goalie and I think our defense played pretty well. We've got to come up with more of those 50-50 groundballs," Brameier said. "Credit to New Canaan. I think they did some things that took us out of our game."

Stanton indicated he didn't have a preference between Ridgefield and Greenwich in the title game, though he knows that a tough challenge waits in the battle for the FCIAC crown.

New Canaan won without Puck Richardson, who sat with an injury but is expected back Friday.

"I was just trying to do everything I can to help us win this one," Stanton said. "This was for Puck Richardson, who couldn't be in this game. It's great to get three goals, but it's even better as a team to get back to the championship and try to defend our title."; Twitter: @jchik17

New Canaan 5, Darien 3

DARIEN 1 1 1 0--3

NEW CANAAN 2 2 0 1--5

Records: Darien 12-7, 12-3 FCIAC; New Canaan 16-2, 12-1 FCIAC. Scoring: D--Peter Lindley 2g, John Reed 1g, 1a, Kevin Seiler 1a; NC--Henry Stanton 3g, Pete Johnson 1g, Teddy Bossidy 1g, 1a, Michael Kraus 1a. Goalies: D--Phil Huffard (9 saves); NC--Trent Nader (11). Shots: D--22; NC--23.