Rivalry reigns as New Canaan tops Darien in boys ice hockey
Published 10:51 am, Wednesday, December 22, 2010
DARIEN -- There is no love lost between New Canaan and Darien High Schools, regardless of the sport.
The two FCIAC boys' hockey powerhouses didn't disappoint the energetic standing-room only crowd at Darien Ice Rink on Monday, as the Rams edged the Blue Wave 4-2 in an entertaining and physical matchup.
"It doesn't matter the records, or the sport, it's going to be a game," said New Canaan head coach Bo Hickey, who is also an assistant coach of the Rams' football team. "They are our neighbor. And you just don't want to lose to your neighbor."
Three years ago, fans from the rival schools got into a tussle outside of Stamford's Terry Connors Rink, which forced all future contests to be played during daytime hours.
"The history (and rivalry) was definitely in the back of our minds," said New Canaan forward Reed Harper, who scored a goal and notched an assist. "But we were very focused on the game today, getting the win and the points."
New Canaan jumped out to an early lead thanks to goals from David Crandall and Harper, setting the early tone.
Harper, one of New Canaan's top scorers as a sophomore, left to play at Salisbury last season. But after an unsuccessful year and a half at prep school, returned to New Canaan after Thanksgiving to play for the Rams.
"It's definitely good to be back because everyone wanted me here," said Harper, a junior, who repeated his sophomore year. "I talked to Bo (Hickey) over Thanksgiving, I've always loved it here, and I was glad to hear that everyone wanted me to come back."
The Blue Wave got on the board two minutes before the end of a hard-hitting first period. Brendan Hathaway made a nice move past a defender as he took the zone before dishing the puck across to co-captain Nick Bruno, who made no mistake with the finish. It was the first goal New Canaan (2-0) allowed this season, after four consecutive shutouts dating to the preseason.
"That goal was big, we couldn't go down three goals," Bruno said. "Hathaway did all the work, he dangled a kid and put it through his legs, I just put it in. It was all Hathaway."
Darien came out fired up for the second period, which provided end-to-end action. But both goaltenders, junior and first-year varsity starter Max Rothston (30 saves) for Darien and sophomore Tim Nowacki (25 saves) for New Canaan, were up to the task, making several key saves.
But with just over one minute remaining in the second period, Darien's pressure in front of the New Canaan goal yielded the tying goal.
The Blue Wave may have had the momentum heading into the third period, but New Canaan's maturity shone through. The Rams took back the lead on the power play with 12:33 remaining. After setting up in the offensive zone, defenseman David Russell's shot from the point went through traffic in front of goal, beating the screened Rothston for 3-2.
Darien never recovered from the goal and 30 second later a brawl ensued next to the Blue Wave net. The result was a game-misconduct penalty for Darien's Cameron Murray as well as a double-minor for New Canaan's Harper and PT Prins.
With just over five minutes remaining, the Rams scored an insurance goal. Harper beat a defender as he carried the puck towards goal and fed it across the crease to the waiting Charlie Corcoran, who slammed it home before getting leveled by a Darien defender.
"What got in our way tonight was a lack of discipline," said Darien coach Larry Vieira, who was visibly frustrated that his team took three third period penalties. "Misconducts are not acceptable and there is no excuse. Then later in the period we took a penalty in the offensive zone when we were on the power play. We know this game is emotional, there is no two ways about it. But New Canaan showed more discipline, which was the difference right there."
Darien (0-3, 0-1) began last season slowly, losing its first five games before reaching the Division I state semifinals. As a result, Vieira isn't worried his squad can turn it around.
"We are going to be okay," Vieira said. "But we don't want to read that book again. We have the talent and the depth and the desire. Now its up to the coaches and the upper classmen to make us a team, that's the final ingredient."