New Canaan tops Darien behind big third period
STAMFORD - Darien did something that no other hockey team in the state of Connecticut had done all season Wednesday night at the Terry Conners Ice Rink: The Blue Wave managed to shut down the powerful New Canaan Ram offensive attack for two full periods while protecting a slim 1-0 lead.
In the third period, however, the Rams' offense finally broke through with three goals, giving them a 3-1 win and preserving their unblemished record.
"It instills confidence in our team that we can come back. It was an emotional win," New Canaan's Reed Harper said.
Darien got its first break of the game 2:28 into the opening period after New Canaan's Eric Persky was assessed a penalty. The Blue Wave took just six seconds to capitalize on the Ram powerplay. Darien's Brendan Hathaway deflected teammate Doug Miller's shot from the point past New Canaan goalie Tim Nowacki to stake his team to an early 1-0 advantage.
New Canaan had some power play opportunities of its own, but spectacular work from Darien junior goalie Max Rothston kept New Canaan off the scoreboard for the first 32 minutes of the game. His effort was received with several fist bumps from the Darien skaters during play stoppages and praise from his coach.
"Max has been fabulous all year. He hasn't had a bad period or a bad game all year," Darien coach Larry Vieira said.
New Canaan peppered the Darien netminder 17 shots in the first period and another 10 in the second, but Rothston made several tough saves to keep his team ahead. Darien even managed to kill off a 5-on-3 New Canaan powerplay in the opening period. Two Darien penalty killing trios of Cam Murray, Dillon Zaro and George Gregory and Hank Glick, Richard Gregory and Miller helped to minimize New Canaan opportunities.
"The preparation was the same as usual. We knew we were playing a great team," Rothston said. "With the high-powered offense that they have, we couldn't afford to take penalties, but at the same time we did a great job on the penalty kill. This one's tough."
Although the first period had its fair share of hard hits from both teams, it wasn't until the second period when the intensity of the New Canaan-Darien rivalry began to ignite.
After a play stoppage and a minor scrum in front of the net, Darien's Alec Foresta pursued New Canaan's David Russell along the boards. Russel appeared to wave Foresta towards him, and Foresta delivered a hit. Russell was assessed an unsportsmanlike minor penalty and Foresta was hit with a roughing minor penalty.
The game tightened up a bit in the second period, and there were few scoring opportunities for either team. New Canaan was unable to capitalize on a four minute powerplay opportunity, though Harper came close on two occasions. Darien was also denied on a powerplay opportunity of its own at the end of the second period, as Nick Bruno was denied by a kick save by Nowacki with 14 seconds to play. The second period ended with Darien still clinging to a 1-0 advantage.
"We've fought a lot of battles the last few years with a lot of these kids," New Canaan coach Bo Hickey said. "I didn't have threaten anybody or do anything [in between the second and third period]. We have a pretty savvy group of kids."
New Canaan was forced to do battle without one of its leaders and best players, senior Henry Corcoran, who will be out for the season with a shoulder injury. Sophomore Charlie Corcoran, Henry's younger brother, finally helped New Canaan break through 2:56 into the third period on an unassisted goal.
At 6:56, it was Harper's turn as he took in a pass from Ryan Begoon and snapped a shot over the outstretched glove of Rothston for a 2-1 lead. Harper wore Henry Corcoran's No. 19 jersey and plans to do so for the rest of the season.
"Begoon flipped the puck off the ice and I knew it was going to take a bounce one way or the other," Harper said. "I got behind the D and went high glove with it."
Vieira used his timeout to try to help his team regroup, but the Blue Wave had limited scoring opportunities the rest of the way.
Dylan Hart, who took Henry Corcoran's spot on New Canaan's top line, iced the game by scoring an unassisted shorthanded goal after stealing the puck from Darien deep in its own zone for a 3-1 lead.
For Darien (7-7-1), however, it wasn't a matter of them doing anything wrong; it was a matter of an undefeated team playing up to its skill level.
"Nothing went wrong for us. We had a defensive breakdown, yes, but New Canaan forced that because of their speed, because of their skill level, they forced us into mistakes," Vieira said. "Hats off to New Canaan and their coaching staff. They won the game. We didn't lose it."
New Canaan (15-0) is only five wins away from a perfect regular season record, and Charlie Corcoran indicated that his team's confidence is very high.
"We've got a lot of firepower on offense, we've got a very good defense and a very good goalie. So when we come out to play and we're fired up, I don't think we're going to be beaten by any team," Charlie Corcoran said. "We go about every game just worrying about winning that game."