Chik Chatting: Pregame thoughts
Due to the Wednesday night deadline of the New Canaan News, I am writing this before the actual game.
While players from each side were undoubtedly looking forward to the challenge of squaring off against their rival for the fourth time this season, it's actually somewhat unfortunate for both teams that they had to play each other in the first round, though you would be hard pressed to find someone on either team who would admit it. Even so, both the Rams and the Blue Wave appeared more than capable of making a deep run into the tournament, but the bracket pairings ensured that one of these teams would be one-and-done.
The State Tournament brackets are determined simply by the team's records and not by strength of schedule, and as luck would have it, it was No. 5 Darien (15-5) playing host to No. 12 New Canaan (12-7-1) at the Darien Ice Rink on Wednesday night.
On the plus side, neither team was forced to sit through a long bus ride to get to the game, which is never a guarantee during a state-wide tournament.
Then there's the manner in which each team entered the State Tournament. Darien is on the heels of a heartbreaking 3-2 loss against Ridgefield in the FCIAC Championship game on Saturday, while New Canaan enters the game anxious to avenge its loss to Darien in the FCIAC semifinals on Feb. 29 and even up the season series at 2-2.
Both teams enjoyed exceptional regular seasons after rocky starts, but one would have to believe that falling short of the FCIAC crown has left a sour taste for both the Rams and Blue Wave, and what better way to take out that frustration than by facing off against your next-door neighbor to start the State Tournament?
While the path each team took to this game could have played a small role in determining the outcome, this is a game which likely was ultimately be decided by the little things: Which team won the battles for loose pucks, which goalie made a clutch save or two late in the game, which team forced its opponent into mistakes and which team was able to capitalize on those mistakes.
If we've heard it once, we've heard it a thousand times: Records and seeds are out the window when New Canaan plays Darien. And perhaps no sport epitomizes that more than boys hockey, especially in a winner-goes-home game.
As a result of getting past its rival, Darien advances to play No. 4 Glastonbury on Saturday at a time and date to be determined in the quarterfinals of the tournament.
I find it necessary to add one postgame comment: New Canaan vs. Darien Round 4 was the best and most entertaining high school hockey game I have ever covered.