DARIEN -- New Canaan High School's boys' hockey team has proven it can be the team to beat -- handing Darien its only in-conference loss in fairly convincing fashion. The Rams also have lost some games they believe they should have won.

On Monday, the Rams showed they can win in the clutch -- and win big. The team put together a solid all-around performance to topple Wilton 7-1 in a key FCIAC battle with playoff implications at Darien Ice Rink.

New Canaan jumped out to 4-0 lead in the first period and left the rink with a tiebreaker edge over Wilton -- and the same in-conference record of 8-4. The muddled FCIAC playoff picture was still very much in question as New Canaan's regular season concluded.

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One thing was for sure: With the win over the Warriors, the Rams kept their FCIAC Tier I playoff hopes alive.

As a result of other FCIAC action on Wednesday, New Canaan is the tournament's No. 4 seed and will again play Wilton, the tournament's No. 5 seed.

"It was the biggest game we've had all season. If we lost we were going to the [Tier II FCIAC playoffs] and, trust me, none of us wanted to go to that tournament," said New Canaan captain Jake Granito, adding that it would be embarrassing for a team that is the two-time conference champions.

On Wednesday, New Canaan needed either Fairfield (7-4 in conference) to lose to Darien (10-1) at 2 p.m. or Trinity (7-4) to fall to Westhill (5-6) at 6:40 p.m.

Ironically, it was rival Darien which helped punch New Canaan's playoff ticket by picking up a 5-3 win over Fairfield.

New Canaan did its part by opening up a big lead and cruising to one of its most lopsided victories of the season. Granito opened the scoring and fellow captain Dylan Hart followed with the first of his two lamp-lighters. Harry Stanton and Jack Stanton added opening-period tallies for the 4-0 cushion.

"We had to come out firing in this game and we did. That's how we're going to have to play the rest of the season," Granito said.

Hart, Chip Glover and Brock Anderson all found the net in the second period. In the end, New Canaan outshot the Warriors 38-20 as Ram goaltender Chris Koennecke had 19 saves.

"We had our backs against the wall and we came out swinging from the opening faceoff," Hart pointed out. "This shows that we can really play. We can play with everyone."

"You can't ask for a better game than this. That was our best game by far," Granito added.

The Rams, who had lost to Darien 6-1 early in the year, avenged that defeat with a 4-0 blanking of their rivals on Feb. 14. Then, they lost 4-2 to St. Joseph in their next game before rebounding against Wilton.

The Rams entered into the Wednesday pulling for either Darien or Westhill to win.

"It's always hard to root for Darien. That's never fun," Hart said.