DARIEN -- Facing off for the first time since the opening round of last year's state tournament, a sudden-death nail-biter, the New Canaan and Darien boys hockey teams found themselves in familiar territory: An overtime period.
And while there was no shortage of scoring opportunities in overtime -- or in regulation for that matter -- neither the Rams nor the Blue Wave could solve the opposition's goalie, resulting in a 0-0 tie.
New Canaan's Chris Koennecke and Darien's Mike Collins stole the show and combined to go 67-for-67 in net, as both senior netminders were able to make several difficult saves look fairly routine in the scoreless deadlock.
"It's tough coming out of here without a decision, but we're getting on the right track. We're looking to bounce back and get some wins here and get on a roll," said Koennecke, who made 38 saves. "Games like this build your confidence as a goalie, and when you're confident you start to play hot. The important thing is coming out and giving our team an opportunity to win every night."
"The crowds got us fired up and I think both teams played really well. It just didn't happen for us; the puck wouldn't bounce our way," said Collins, who made 29 saves. "It's nice to get a shutout, but it's a little disappointing too. I think we've started great. We've done a good job with everything. Our team is pulling together."
In a tense eight-minute overtime period, both teams had their chances to break the stalemate, but each goalie was up to the challenge. Midway through the period, Darien's Jack Pardue swooped into the New Canaan zone to intercept a clearing attempt and passed to teammate Jack Knowlton, who attempted to slide the puck just inside the right post before being denied by Koennecke. Pardue got to the rebound and fired another shot, but his attempt was also sent wide by Koennecke.
"Typical New Canaan-Darien athletics event. Not hockey game, athletics event," New Canaan coach Bo Hickey said. "Both goaltenders did a great job. They stood tough, they backed off of shots, they handled the rebounds well which is a huge thing in high school hockey. If you paid to get in, you didn't get cheated on your money."
There were several momentum shifts throughout the game, but neither team seemed to have the upper hand for long stretches.
"It really doesn't matter who's better on paper and this and that. It was just a hell of a hockey game. In my 16 years, I don't think I've been a part of a 0-0 overtime tie," Darien coach Chris Gerwig said. "We knew coming in that this would be a dogfight, and that's exactly what it was: Chances on both ends, high-tempo, good hitting, good clean hockey."
The powerplay also proved futile in both teams' attempts to crack the scoreboard, as Darien went 0-for-4 with nine shots and New Canaan went 0-for-1 with two shots.
In a literal sense, Pardue got closer to scoring than anyone on the ice. Midway through the second period, Darien's Thomas Watters sent a quick cross-ice pass to a waiting Pardue. Pardue's one-time wrist shot struck the near post before bouncing out of harm's way.
With wins over Hamden and West Haven as well as the tie against New Canaan, Darien's undefeated mark remains intact and it will next play at home against Notre Dame-Fairfield on Saturday at 7:30 p.m.
"I'm proud of my goaltending and my defense," Gerwig said. "We've given up two goals in three games against three pretty darn good teams."
New Canaan, meanwhile, is still searching for its first win after suffering two straight losses to Notre-Dame West Haven and Hamden to start the season. The good news for the Rams is that the schedule figures to get much easier after the difficult season-opening stretch. Up next is a trip to the Dorothy Hamill Ice Rink to play Greenwich on Saturday at 11 a.m.
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NEW CANAAN 0, DARIEN 0
DARIEN................................ 0 0 0 0--0
NEW CANAAN................... 0 0 0 0--0
Records: New Canaan 0-2-1 (0-0-1 FCIAC), Darien 2-0-1 (0-0-1 FCIAC).
Goalies: NC--Chris Koennecke (38 saves); D--Mike Collins (29); Shots: NC--29; D--38.