STAMFORD -- In a game that leant even more credence to the notion Darien-New Canaan is the best rivalry in the FCIAC, the Blue Wave girls hockey team wrestled the FCIAC crown away from the previously perfect Rams with a thrilling 4-3 victory at Terry Conners Ice Rink on Saturday.
Darien led for a mere 1:25 of action, but it was the 1:25 that counted.
Tied 3-3 and nearing the end of what had been a scoreless third period, Darien freshman Georgia Cassidy skated up the center of the ice looking for the game-winner. Cassidy's first shot was stopped, but she got to her rebound and put it into the net to give her team the 4-3 lead.
"I looked up and saw two really good defenders in front of me, so I decided I would just jump it and try to get a rebound, and I got it," said Cassidy, whose dream FCIAC tournament continued after scoring both of Darien's goals in its 2-1 OT win over Ridgefield in the semifinals. "I'm so happy we could do it for Lily (Christensen). I'm so happy for her."
With 1:25 showing on the clock, however, the Blue Wave knew their work was far from over. Darien prevented New Canaan from getting a shot on net after taking the lead, and the clock expired to give them the championship.
"We're covered in bruises from blocking shots, eating it in the corner and wasting time. We did not want that puck anywhere near our goalie," said Lily Christensen, Darien's lone senior and tournament MVP. "It's the greatest feeling in the whole entire world. I've been looking forward to this for four years. This is the game that counted, and we got them."
Four minutes into the game, New Canaan's Olivia Hompe put her team on top when she scored on a wrister after receiving a pass from Corbett Ripley.
After withstanding New Canaan's initial charge, it appeared Darien would get out of the first period still trailing by just one goal, but the Rams' Catherine Granito had other plans. Granito scored from close range with 20 seconds left, as Madzie Carroll and Hompe collected the assists.
"I'm going to give some credit to Darien. We had them down for a while and they came back and were showing a lot of heart," Carroll said. "I'm glad we have another chance (in the state tournament), so there's nothing else we can do but look forward."
"(New Canaan has) an unbelievable team, unbelievable players and these kids are amazing. We gave up that goal, and we talked about the whole week in practice of just keeping it close," Darien coach Jamie Tropsa said. "When we got down 2-0, they could have packed it in. We lost to them 7-1 a few weeks ago. I was truly amazed how they just didn't want to give in, and they didn't."
Just over a minute and half into the second period, Darien's Ellie Bennett got her team on the board by notching an unassisted power-play goal.
Less than three minutes later, the Blue Wave pulled even when Cassidy scored her first of two goals after dekeing a New Canaan defender. Julia Arrix, who made a long pass to Cassidy, collected the assist.
Midway through the second period, Hompe received a pass from Carroll and seemed to weave past every Darien defender on the ice before scoring on a backhand to give her team the 3-2 lead.
Darien, however, got another power-play opportunity, and Amanda Sload scored with one second left on the man-advantage. Sload's tally tied the game 3-3, and it would remain that way until Cassidy's game-winner late in the third.
Late in the second, Carroll got the puck to Hompe, whose shot appeared to just graze the top of the crossbar before bouncing over the Darien net.
"You've got to give Darien all the credit in the world; they scored goals that they needed to score," New Canaan coach Rich Bulan said. "I'm very proud of what we've accomplished. We're not done and we've got to come back Monday and put this behind us. That'll really show us what we're made of."
Entering the third tied 3-3, New Canaan had 56 seconds left on a power play and nearly scored. In a flash, Hompe was on a breakaway as soon as the puck dropped, but Darien goalie Shannon Hall made what may have the best of her 29 saves, quickly reacting to make a kick save with her right pad before covering the puck.
"I think it's important to stay calm, especially when a player like Olivia is coming at you. So I had to take a deep breath and watch where she was going and follow her, and I just had to do what I got to do," Hall said. "It's honestly unreal. To beat them in the FCIAC final is a dream come true. It's ridiculous."
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DARIEN 4, NEW CANAAN 3
DARIEN 0 3 1--4
NEW CANAAN 2 1 0--3
Goals: D--Georgia Cassidy 2, Ellie Bennett, Amanda Sload; NC--Olivia Hompe 2, Catherine Granito. Assists: D--Julia Arrix; NC--Madzie Carroll 2, Hompe, Corbett Ripley. Goalies: D--Shannon Hall (29 saves); NC--Nathalie Deney (15), Sarah Klearman (1). Shots: D--18; NC--32.