New Canaan caps off tough stretch with win over St. Joseph, remains unbeaten
Published 11:34 am, Monday, February 14, 2011
The New Canaan boys' hockey team is a lot like the runaway train in the action-thriller, "Unstoppable." It is big, fast, explosive, and determined to plow through anything that gets in its way. Saturday night at the Darien Ice Rink, St. Joe's got on the Rams' track and wound up like every other team that's tried to skate with the red and black express: Defeated and demoralized.
The top-ranked team in the state got a pair of goals from Reed Harper to beat St. Joe's 5-2, finishing off a tough, three-game stretch that saw them raise their record to 17-0.
"It was a great win and a great week," said Harper, who is wearing No. 19 to honor teammate Henry Corcoran who is out for the season after undergoing surgery on his shoulder. "We beat Darien, Hamden, and a very good St. Joe's team. It's big for our hockey club as we go forward."
From the drop of puck, the game had playoff-like intensity. It was rough and physical, with neither team backing down.
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"Basically it was a bunch of red-blooded Americans trying to kill each other," New Canaan coach Bo Hickey joked after the game.
The physicality led to a pair of penalties for the Cadets near the end of the first period, and the Rams took advantage. On a 5-on-3 with 1:45 to go, Harper rifled one past St. Joe's goalie Zach Carrano from the top of circle, tying the game at 1-1.
After the goal, Harper and Patrick Corcoran of St Joe's got into a nasty skirmish, with the Rams junior getting slapped with a four-minute double minor. Corcoran received just two minutes for roughing.
"I sort of got jumped on the play," Harper said. "And the referee said I took my helmet off, which really happened after I got hit." The incident was a prelude of things to come.
Coming off a physically taxing and an emotionally-charged win over Hamden on Friday night, the Rams got their legs in the second period. Just 54 seconds into the frame, Charlie Corcoran put his signature on a play for the highlight reel. Breaking down the right side, the sophomore forward slipped a St. Joe's player, who was draped all over him, then poked one past Carrano, giving the Rams a 2-1 advantage.
With 11:55 to go in the period, the Rams got some breathing room thanks to David Crandall. The senior forward blistered a rebound past Carrano, ramping up New Canaan's lead to 3-1.
"Reed Harper took it wide there and took a nice low shot," Crandall said. "He split the defenders, and I just buried the rebound. It was all Harper."
St. Joe's cut into the Rams just over two minutes later when Conor Crouse ripped one past goalie Tim Nowacki to make it 3-2. The rest of the period saw the penalty box turn into a turnstile with a total of nine players going off for minor infractions.
"The referees talked to the captains after the first period," Hickey said. "They talked to the coaches during the game. Sometimes it's just frustration."
The Rams took out their frustrations on the St. Joe's goalie early in the third period. Twenty-eight seconds in, Dylan Hart took a beautiful centering pass from Corcoran and beat Carrano, giving New Canaan a 4-2 advantage.
Then with his team on the power-play, the St. Joe's goalie had an "uh-oh" moment. Harper took a long pass from defenseman Brian Tohir and was free and clear at the blue line. Harper snapped one past Carrano, icing the game with 4:57 to go.
"That's the real deal," Hickey said of Harper. "If you want to see somebody shoot like that, you'll have to pay $200 and go to Madison Square Garden. There's only, maybe ten in the NHL that can shoot like that."
The Rams finished off St. Joe's 5-2 in a hotly-contested game that saw the teams combine for 24 penalties. Being undefeated this deep into the season, New Canaan is thinking about perfection, but they're not obsessed with it.
"We're just taking it one game at a time. We don't want to look ahead," senior tri-captain Thomas
Krieger said. "Our goal right now is FCIAC and then states."
However, just about everyone on the team knows they could be on doorstep to greatness.
"It's in the front of our minds," Harper said. "We're on the verge of something special. New Canaan hasn't won a state championship since 1972. To go undefeated would cap off a great year of preparation and a lot of hard work."