New Canaan eliminated in overtime loss against Darien
DARIEN -- It took over 58 minutes of play and 62 shots on goal, but the Blue Wave finally came away a winner in Round 4 of the season-long Darien-New Canaan saga, owners of a 2-1 sudden-death overtime win on Wednesday night at the Darien Ice Rink.
With 1:27 remaining in overtime, Darien's George Gregory played the puck into the New Canaan zone, which was corralled by John Knowlton along the boards. Knowlton centered the puck to Nick Bruno, who snapped a quick wrist shot for the game-winner, sending Darien into the quarterfinals of the Division I State tournament.
By defeating its bitter border rival for the third time in four chances this season, No. 5 Darien (15-5) kept its season alive and will face off against No. 4 Glastonbury at a site and time to be announced on Saturday. The Tomahawks scored a 7-0 win over No. 13 Southbury on Wednesday night.
"Jack Knowlton forechecked which is what he's been doing all year. He got the puck to the front of the net and I just shot it right under (the goalie's) arm and from there it was the celebration. It was a perfect pass," Bruno said. "Coach told us to just keep grinding and cycling. That's what we did and we eventually came out on top. We knew it had to be ours; we've worked way too hard."
Just before the midway point of the second period, Darien's Brenden Hathaway finally put a dent in the scoreboard. After taking control of the puck in the New Canaan zone, Hathaway faked a shot, skated in closer and buried a top-shelf wrister for the 1-0 advantage.
Darien looked like it would carry the momentum into the third period, but New Canaan's Henry Stanton had other plans. Exiting the penalty box with less than 10 seconds remaining in the second, Stanton received a long pass from Jake Granito, raced in and scored with less than one second remaining.
After some deliberation, officials ruled the goal had indeed been scored with time remaining. Although there was no faceoff after the goal, the puck appeared to have crossed the goal line with about 0.3 seconds left.
"He got out (of the penalty box), he got a lucky bounce and it went in. They tested us early but we kept them out. We didn't know what would happen tonight, but I'm glad we played them," DHS goalie Max Rothston said. "We knew we couldn't lose this game. We left it all on the ice and we followed through with the win. It feels great. I think we can do anything now."
Each team had several quality scoring opportunities at the end of regulation and in overtime, but Rothston and New Canaan netminder Chris Koennecke each made several difficult saves to keep their respective teams alive. In total, Rothston made 35 saves and Koennecke turned aside 24 Darien shots.
Rothston's most difficult save may have come in the first period. With the game still scoreless, New Canaan's Peter Reinhardt raced toward the Darien net on a breakaway, but Rothston stood his ground to preserve the deadlock.
With his team trailing 1-0, Koennecke made an clutch save, denying Gregory's attempt at a stuff-in goal.
Although it was certainly difficult for No. 12 New Canaan to see its season conclude against Darien, Granito could find little fault with the way his team played, even calling it "one of the best games we've played all season."
"I saw someone up the ice, so I threw it up to him (on the game-tying goal). It was a great thing that we tied it up with no time left in the second period," Granito said. "Darien played a hell of a game. Losing 18 guys (before the season) definitely isn't easy. You can't ask for anything more than that. We played our hearts out and they were the better team tonight I guess."
Now three wins away from wearing the State championship crown, Darien is hopeful that the thrilling overtime win can serve as a springboard for the rest of the postseason tournament.
"I like our chances. Our coaches know what they're talking about, every practice is perfectly planned and this just gives us momentum," Bruno said. "No one's going to stop us now. We're ready."