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Befitting a team topping the red, white and blue rankings, from sea to wave-topped sea, Darien adapted. You can’t always ride the cushion of a crushing lead.

The defense played spectacular in front of me giving me the shots I wanted to see.

— Ryan Cornell

“Today was a battle until the end, we went up against a worthy opponent who played very well,” said Darien’s Finlay Collins following the Wave’s 11-8 victory over New Canaan at Dunning Field on Saturday. “Our defense really kept us in it, especially since our offense didn't play great.”

What Darien adapted to, was a truly dangerous challenge from the number two team in the state, and a truly offensively sharp bunch in the Rams.

“They played amazing as a unit and hung tough throughout the whole game,” Collins said of the Wave D. “Without them playing the way they did, it might have been a different story.”

And the Wave adapted to playing it tight, and bursting out when it had to. In the end.

“It was our defense that kept us in it,” added Riley Stewart. “We struggled offensively, but we really did well at close on our matchups, as Ryan (Cornell) played great in goal.”

New Canaan scored first, but it was 3-2 in Darien’s favor after one quarter, and all tied up at 6-6 at the half and on into the third quarter, when the Wave made its move.

“Just got great help from the other defensemen,” said senior standout knock-'em-down defender, and welcome first-year Waver Arden Cohen. “Cornell never stops talking, (Jake) Bieler never stops talking. All of that put together just helps us out a lot.”

Darien scored four straight to pull away late in the second half.

Tanner Strub came on strong on face-offs to help spark the Wave fire up front.

It reached boiling point when New Canaan sophomore Quintin O’Connell (four goals) scored for the hat trick for a 7-6 lead with 3:35 to go in third quarter.

Just over a minute later Collins had his second goal to tie it 7-7 with a laser in-and-out under the crossbar.

Magician Fin

“On the shot that hit the crossbar and went in, Matt Meyjes drew a slide and passed the ball off to me,” said Collins of the shot that looked like an optical illusion. “I was fortunate to get my hands free and step into a shot that hit off the crossbar; went down; and broke the plane of the goal.”

It seemed to break through the third dimension.

“I wasn't sure if it went in or not,” added Collins. “But my teammates seemed pretty certain so that was reassuring.”

Logan McGovern, scoring four goals to lead the Wave, put Darien ahead 8-7 with only five seconds to play in the third. He popped in a feed from the doorstep on the right side, like he was sticking a gift he was dying to deliver, slam into a giant mailbox.

Wave top-scorer senior Kevin Lindley made it 9-7 scoring from up the middle and near 20 yards away on the one-timer with 10:20 to play in regulation. He fired face to face at 20 paces with the goalie like a wild west gunslinger who had heard someone call draw.

“We knew that New Canaan is always going to be a good match-up and a good game,” said Lindley, who had two goals and two assists. “With that said, they played a really good game and it was a battle.

“I think the difference-maker was the hustle that we had in the second half and the amount of assisted goals we had. Whenever you have a lot of assisted goals it puts a lot of stress on the defense and I think we did just enough of that.”

McGovern went in hard on the left side, cut past the defender in deep and finished with a two-step and goal for the hat trick and a 10-7 Wave lead with 9:34 to go.

O’Connell cut the lead to 10-8 with 7:50 left.

But reliable McGovern raced across the front right to left and flung the ball in when he reached the cage for an 11-8 lead and lights-out under the blazing sun with under one minute to go.

For a sparse, for the Wave, offensive outing, McGovern was pretty lights-out himself up front.

“Overall it was a great team effort with a lot of people stepping up,” Collins said. “But we have to keep getting better if we want to accomplish our goals.”

Cornell made half a dozen key saves, and a dozen in all. Clears? He was Mr. Clean of the crease.

“We played a very solid game today, but we know that we can do better,” he said. “The defense played spectacular in front of me giving me the shots I wanted to see.”

Second-half is when the Wave offense kicked in. But at the same time the defense was kicking, it.

“I think we did a really great job in the second half holding them to two goals,” said Cornell. “The offense always had an answer and that's what we thrive on.”

The Wave improves to 9-0 overall, 6-0 FCIAC, while the Rams go to 6-4, 5-1.

It’s Darien’s 40th straight win, dating back two seasons.

Collins scored two goals, Stewart, James Solberg and Jack Joyce had one each, with Stewart adding an assist.

The Rams’ Drew Morris made 14 stops in goal, and was no easy read.

“We were able to put enough goals in to win the game,” Stewart said. “Overall a great team win in some brutal heat.”

And that from the hottest team in the land.