DARIEN — Moments after his New Canaan girls ice hockey team had shut out rival Darien 1-0, coach Rich Bulan offered an observation on junior goalie Bythe Novick.

“It’s amazing,” Bulan said. “She been playing all the good teams since she was a freshman and she always comes up big in these games.”

Novick was in a zone Saturday night at the Darien Ice House as she made 21 saves to blank the Blue Wave in a rematch of last year’s state championship game.

Sophomore Jade Lowe scored the game’s only goal after a pass from sophomore Grace Flatow with five minutes remaining in the second period, and Novick and the defense made it hold up for the victory.

Darien, which had a 21-16 edge in shots, was buzzing around the net for much of the game, but the Rams seemed to pick up steam as the game went along.

“We want it so bad when we play them and that’s enough motivation to keep us going through the game,” Novick said. “Honestly, the more tired we got, the more we just kept pressing and kept working, and the result was a win.”

The loss was the first of the season for the Wave (3-1), which won its first three games, including a 2-0 shutout of Greenwich.

“You’ve got to give them a lot of credit - they battled hard,” Darien coach Jamie Tropsa said. “We played an OK game, just not good enough to beat a team like New Canaan. We had a lot of good chances and we didn’t take advantage of them. Our best chances, I don’t know if we even got a shot on net, so we’ve got to get a lot better at that,”

New Canaan (5-2) has put together a 6-1-1 record against Darien over the past three seasons, with Novick playing a huge role. Since the start of last season, she’s allowed just two goals in 188 minutes against the Blue Wave.

The Rams were also boosted by the return of junior Mckenna Harden, an All-FCIAC defender who had missed the first five games with an injury. She helped lock down the back line alongside senior Sophie Potter and freshman Amanda Benson and Alla Duane.

“She’s a big buddy of mine and I feel super comfortable when she’s on the ice,” Novick said of Harden. “Everyone looks up to her, and when she’s out there, she guides where people have to go, so that helps. Our defense did a really good job and when the pressure got tougher, our team just matched it.”

Darien had several opportunities in the first period, generating multiple shots during a power play with six minutes remaining. Novick made a great block of a shot in close from junior Kate Bellissimo, and then stopped another attempt by Bellissimo moments later.

The Wave had a 2-on-1 chance in the final minute, but Harden scrambled back to play senior Caitlin Chan off to the left.

Sophomore goalie Claire Haupt, who made 15 saves, along with Cate Droogan and Catherine Martin, led a strong defensive effort for Darien.

“For our defense, that was probably the best game we’ve played so far,” Tropsa said.

The game’s lone goal came when Flatow swept a pass across the front of the net to Lowe, who fired it over the glove of Haupt to the far post.

After that, New Canaan was able to hold off Darien’s pressure and limited the Wave to just four shots on net in the third period.

“We were worried about them scoring early in the third period because they’re so capable of that,” Bulan said. “But we weathered that and every time it looked like they could break in and take the momentum, somebody made a big play.”

Bulan also credited the third line play of Arianna Bell, Tess Hobbs and Marina Mallozzi, who maintained the pace and help keep the Rams’ legs fresh.

For the Rams, it was a good night to have their best game.

“That was the best we’ve played this year,” Bulan said. “You talk about a team win — Blythe was there and she was great, but our defense was great and all together, it was a gutsy win against a great team.”

PLAYER OF THE GAME

Blythe Novick, New Canaan. The Rams’ junior goalie was on point, stopping all 21 shots she faced. Seventeen of those saves came during the first two periods with Darien applying consistent pressure.

QUOTABLE

“We started the season thinking about how we were down players and we were just going to have to make due, and we need to get over that and play for ourselves. It’s going to happen — you won’t always have your full team. We know we can fill in those spots and have someone step up and we finally did that today.” — New Canaan goalie Blythe Novick

david.stewart@hearstmediact.com; @dstewartsports

NEW CANAAN 1, DARIEN 0

DARIEN 0 0 0 - 0

NEW CANAAN 0 1 0 - 1

Scoring: NC - Jade Lowe 1g; Grace Flatow 1a.

Saves: D - Claire Haupt 15; NC - Blythe Novick 21

Records: Darien 3-1; New Canaan 5-2