DARIEN — Historically, the New Canaan High School boys ice hockey program has never shied away from taking on all comers across the state of Connecticut.

Strength of schedule has always been a badge of honor the Rams have won proudly.

New Canaan has been searching for a yardstick-type victory it can use as a springboard to success this FCIAC season.

After the trials and tribulations of a 2-7 start, the Rams may have found their turning point Monday as they conquered Xavier High, 5-1 at Darien ice rink.

The performance was a vast improvement from the New Canaan squad that entered off losses to ND-Fairfield (3-1), Greenwich (6-3) and Fairfield Co-op (3-1).

“We’ve had a lot of ups and downs,” said New Canaan coach Pat Gore. “Last Saturday’s loss (to Fairfield) was a wakeup call. I didn’t talk to the kids before today’s game. I let them sort things out for themselves.”

Beating Xavier (8-3 overall and among the top five teams in the state) saw New Canaan improve in a number of areas.

The Rams scored in the final minute of both the first and second periods. They scored a pair of power-play goals and a shorthanded tally.

The defense blocked a plethora of Xavier shots while New Canaan junior goalie Peter Windas stood tall in net with 29 saves.

“We’ve been getting hurt all season allowing goals in the last few minutes of periods. We’ve also been hurt allowing goals at the end of penalty kills. Those late scores affect the group psyche so much,” Gore said. “The bottom line is when we skate we are a good team.”

And nobody skated better Monday than New Canaan’s junior forward Tyler Hill. Hill confounded Xavier goalies Will McEwan (17 saves, opening two periods) and Jared Guidobono (eight saves, 3rd period) for four goals.

“We have juggled our (three) forward lines a bit. Tyler scored two goals last week and four more today,” Gore said. “Tyler’s biggest problem has been he’s trying too hard to score. We knew it would come together.”

Leading 2-1 after one period and 4-1 after two periods, New Canaan (still 1-2 in the FCIAC) took command by killing off a five-minute Xavier power play to open the third period.

Hill clipped the Falcons’ wings with a shorthanded goal with 10:48 remaining for 5-1.

Xavier coach Dan DeConti was succinct in his analysis after the Falcons’ second straight loss following eight consecutive victories.

“New Canaan outworked us. Outskated us. Out-everythinged us,” DeConti said. “New Canaan was a very good team today, period. The best team on the ice.”

Now the question is whether New Canaan can carry this momentum forward.

“Beating Xavier is huge,” Hill said. “We will go into Wednesday’s (road) game against Ridgefield (at Winter Garden) strong.”

“The pieces are coming together,” NC’s Gore said. “The question isn’t about talent. It’s about our work ethic. To beat a team that moves the puck like Xavier is huge. The job is to build on it Wednesday.”

NEW CANAAN 5, XAVIER 1

XAVIER 1 0 0 — 1

NEW CANAAN 2 2 1 — 5

Records: Xavier 8-3 overall; New Canaan 3-7 overall, still 1-2 FCIAC.

Goals: X — Nikolus Kvietkus. NC — Tyler Hill 4, George McMahon. Assists: X — Tyler Juliano. NC — James Franzis 2, Brooks Gammill 2, McMahon 2, Tyler Ferraro. Goalies: X — Will McEwan (17 saves), Jared Guidobono (8). NC — Peter Windas (29 saves).