Darien boys hockey advances in FCIACs with 5-2 win over New Canaan
With 26 FCIAC boys ice hockey championships between them, including eight in the past 14 years, the Darien Blue Wave and New Canaan Rams have made the conference tournament their own personal playground over the years.
With that in mind, it’s no wonder that the rivals’ Saturday afternoon showdown at the Darien Ice Rink had a championship atmosphere — even if it was an opening round game in the FCIAC tournament.
Darien broke open a tie game with three unanswered goals — two by Parker McLane and one by captain Will Dickson — and topped New Canaan, 5-2, to advance to the FCIAC semifinals. It was the third time this season that the Blue Wave has beaten the Rams, but this one certainly came with a brighter spotlight.
Third-seeded Darien (10-10-1) will now face No. 2 Ridgefield (16-4-0) in the semifinals at 7:30 p.m., Wednesday, at the Darien Ice House. The two teams met just over a week ago, with Ridgefield winning 5-3.
Darien, which is 10-3-1 against FCIAC competition, is feeling pretty good heading into this postseason.
“Pretty confident,” McLane told the HAN Network. “We have a lot to build on right now, especially defensively. We had some trouble getting it out of the zone, but I think we’re going to do pretty well the rest of these playoffs.”
New Canaan really had the better of play for much of the first two periods, finishing with the overall shots advantage of 30-18 and generating a bunch of good opportunities.
Darien’s defense, however, was up to the challenge. Goalie Henri Pfiefle (28 saves) had a great game between the pipes and kept the Rams off the scoreboard for the final 21 minutes as the Wave took control.
James Gregory, Connor McCarthy, Matt Stein and Hunter Hazelton were also key to the defensive effort.
The Wave also took advantage of its offensive opportunities, scoring three times off second chances and rebounds.
McCarthy gave Darien the initial 1-0 lead when he wristed a shot from just inside the blue line through traffic and inside the near pipe. Hudson Pokorny assisted on the play, which came just nine seconds into the game’s first power play.
New Canaan tied it on a wicked shot by co-captain Gunnar Granito at the 8:51 mark. Seamus O’Hora took a pass from Eric Cimino, skated a few steps to the center and then slipped a pass over to a wide open Granito on them left side. Granito hammered a one-timer over Pfiefle’s shoulder for the goal to tie the score at 1-1.
Darien responded late in the period on a goal by Max Sharp, who took a pass from behind the net by Griffin Martens, and slapped it in to make it 2-1.
New Canaan tied it again midway through the second period on a nice play off a faceoff in the Darien zone. Jack O’Hare won the faceoff and got a shot on goal, but Pfeifle made the initial stop. The puck floated in front where Arnone got a stick on in and knocked it home to make it a 2-2 game.
The tie lasted just two and a half minutes, when the Wave went back in front for good.
During heavy pressure from the Blue Wave, McCarthy fired a shot through traffic with Shaner making the save. The puck rebounded in front to McLane, who got a back-hander into the goal with 3:41 remaining in the second period.
“It helps to keep the pressure up and keep them from getting any air,” McLane said. “They were really firing at us and they definitely beat us in shots, but we just kept getting into the net and going in for rebounds.”
McLane was at it again early in the third period, as he scooped up the puck at the New Canaan blue line, skated into the zone, and ripped a goal to the back post for a 4-2 advantage.
Dickson netted the final goal with 7:51 on the click, after a shot by Hazelton went wide. The puck bounced off the boards to Dickson, who sent it home for the 5-2 final.
FCIAC Boys Ice Hockey Playdowns - Darien 5, New Canaan 2
Saturday, Feb. 24, at Darien Ice House
New Canaan 1-1-0 2
Darien 2-1-2 5
New Canaan: Gunnar Granito 1 goal; Griffin Arnone 1 goal; Seamus O’Hora 1 assist; Eric Cimino 1 assist; Jack O’Hare 1 assist
Darien: Parker McLane 2 goals; Connor McCarthy 1 goal, 1 assist; Max Sharp 1 goal; Will Dickson 1 goal; Hudson Pokorny 1 assist; Griffin Martens 1 assist; Hunter Hazelton 1 assist
NC - Dylan Shane 13 saves
D - Henry Pfiefle 28 saves