DARIEN—The hard work and patience are being rewarded. The fortunate bounces of the puck are back. And a goalie has put a whole new outlook on the season for the New Canaan High School boys ice hockey team.
The Rams captured their third straight victory Saturday by grinding out a 3-1 non-league home triumph over Northwest Catholic High at the Darien Ice rink.
Saturday’s victory was made sweeter by the fact that Northwest Catholic had ousted New Canaan, 6-3 in last year’s Division I state semifinals. Northwest Catholic lost 6-2 to Ridgefield in the Division I final.
New Canaan, which had lost four straight contests, now is moving forward at 3-4 overall thanks to downing Simsbury, Westhill-Stamford and Northwest Catholic.
“Every team will have bumps in the road in a season. The good thing was our kids never got down about it,” said New Canaan coach Clark Jones. “Things changed due to a lot of repetition in practice. We scrimmaged more in practice. The coaching staff would stop the action and teach. The patience on all sides has paid off.”
A GOOD DAY FOR NEW CANAAN
After a scoreless first period, New Canaan led 2-1 after two periods thanks to a pair of powerplay goals by Griffin Arnone and Jack O’Hare.
O’Hare’s tally came with 0.5 seconds left in the period. Seamus O’Hora won the faceoff in the right circle. O’Hare hit a dribbler that trickled in past Northwest Catholic goalie Mike Kaliff (19 saves).
“O’Hora has proven to be great on faceoffs. He hasn’t lost a faceoff since we discovered his prowess at it,” New Canaan’s Jones said. “Faceoffs have been an issue for us.”
Overall, New Canaan is playing more conservative hockey. The Rams aren’t free-wheeling offensively.
Also, there haven’t been a lot of juicy rebounds in front of the net since Shane took over.
Shane (16 saves Saturday) never played goalie and got his opportunity when goalie Jack Spain got sick.
“Dylan is a calming influence,” Jones said. “He is a catcher in baseball with a big body. His hand-eye coordination is huge.”
Shane, himself, is enjoying the ride.
“Everybody has been really helpful,” Shane said. “It feels amazing to help this team win. I’m just trying to keep things simple and keep working at it.”
NORTHWEST CATHOLIC YOUNG, TALENTED
The Lions graduated six seniors from last year’s Division I state finalists. They have just two seniors on this season’s roster.
Sophomore standout Brennan Horn scored the lone goal Saturday on a second period powerplay for the Lions (5-2-1 overall).
New Canaan killed off a 25-second 5-on-3 situation in the second period. The Rams killed off a three-minute Lions powerplay with 5:24 left to go.
“Ten days ago we didn’t have the collective hockey IQ that we needed,” said New Canaan captain Gunnar Granito. “Now we know what plays the coaches want. Good decisions and good execution have led to success.”
NEW CANAAN 3, NORTHWEST CATHOLIC 1
NORTHWEST CATHOLIC 0 1 0—1
NEW CANAAN 0 2 1—3
Records: Northwest Catholic 5-2-1, New Canaan 3-4.
Goals: NWC—Brennan Horn (PP). NC—Griffin Arnone (PP), Jack O’Hare (PP), Chase Glover (empty net). Assists: NWC—Nathan Loitz, Sean Macary. NC—Bennett Ong, Quinn McMahon, Seamus O’Hora, Sam Augustine. Goalies: NWC—Mike Kaliff (19 saves). NC—Dylan Shane (16 saves).