Darien boys hockey rallies for OT win against rival Rams
The first time the rival Darien and New Canaan boys ice hockey teams clashed this winter, the result was a lopsided Blue Wave victory.
The second meeting? Let’s just say it was not a repeat performance, even if the Wave ended up on top again.
Darien tied the game with one minute remaining in regulation, and then Bennett McDermott scored the winning goal 3:37 into overtime as the Wave defeated the Rams, 3-2, Friday at the Darien Ice House.
McDermott’s winning shot came from the point and sailed through traffic, beating the screened New Canaan goalie Dylan Shane to the far side.
The game was a great rebound for New Canaan, which lost to Darien 8-1 in December, but the Wave was able to fight through for its second win in the rivalry this winter.
“It’s just too bad that one team had to lose,” Darien head coach Mac Budd said. “It was a great game, it was a fantastic high school game, and really, in many ways. It was everything that the first game wasn’t. It displayed the skill level and speed of two very good high school teams.”
“I’m really pleased at the way our guys played today as a whole,” New Canaan head coach Clark Jones said. “From the goal on out, everybody played a pretty solid game. We had little mistakes which ended up being very costly. It’s a tough loss but we’re happy with the way we played.”
Both goalies delivered big efforts, with Henri Pfieffle collecting 30 saves for Darien, and Shane making 24 stops for New Canaan.
The game is also huge in the race to the postseason, as the Wave is now 6-1-1 overall in the FCIAC, with a chance at the top seed, while the Rams are 4-4-0 and tied for fifth place in the conference. Six teams will qualify for the FCIAC playoffs, which begin on Feb. 24.
Overall, Darien is 7-8-1 while New Canaan is 7-9.
Will Dickson, who scored twice for the Wave, opened the scoring with a power play goal at the 7:05 mark of the second period, but the Rams responded with their own power play goal three minutes later.
Gunnar Granito scored the New Canaan goal when he tipped in a shot from the point by defenseman Walker Ker. Seamus O’Hora also assisted on the play.
Ker then put the Rams ahead 2-1 on another power play goal 1:15 into the third period, firing a shot through a screen and into the net. Chase Glover and Turner Ives had the helpers on that goal.
“Walker played a total, complete game today and was solid on the back end for us,” Jones said. “He’s getting better every day which is what you’re looking for. A lot of the work we’ve done with him is offensively getting the puck at the point, taking steps towards the middle and then releasing and doing it with your eyes up. He’s been working at that tremendously hard and getting better and better as the games have gone on.”
Shane and the New Canaan defense held off some strong challenges by the Wave for more than 12 minutes, but Darien finally tied the game with a minute on the clock.
Dickson won the puck from a Ram defenseman behind the New Canaan net, swooped out to the left and at a difficult angle, spun and fired the puck top shelf to make it 2-2.
The Wave nearly won it in the final minute, but Shane made a terrific diving save on a shot by Dylan McDermott to keep the score knotted
Bennett McDermott’s winner in OT came as he collected the puck just inside the blue line and whipped a goal through traffic.
Having two of their top weapons score in big moments could be a big boost for the Wave in the final weeks of the regular season and into the playoffs.
“That was big for them and I hope it’s big for them down the stretch too,” Budd said. “Those are definitely two of our highly-skilled players who we’re looking to to add some offense. It’s huge from the standpoint of getting the win, but also from down the stretch giving them and the team some confidence.
“We were obviously down to the wire there. It certainly wasn’t looking good and we were lucky that some guys came up big for us in big moments.”
For New Canaan, the loss was definitely disappointing, but also a big improvement from the December meeting with the Wave.
“We think about this as step by step,” Jones said. “From a coaching perspective, we’re taking major steps in how we’re playing — it was an 8-1 game the first time we played them and now structurally, we’ve tightened things up a lot. The overtime goal and their (first) goal were bounces off the boards. Those bounces happen and sometimes you pay for it and sometimes you don’t. Those happened to hurt us.”
“The funny thing is New Canaan and Darien were in very similar spots coming into this game,” Budd said. “Hopefully, it puts us in a position where if we don’t get home ice advantage, at least we’ll have a more favorable match-up.”