The Darien boys hockey team was expected to be strong this season with its experience and depth. Following a season-opening 4-2 loss to Hamden, the Blue Wave have been on a roll, surfing through their last nine games with an unbeaten record of 8-0-1 and posting some very impressive wins.
Darien’s latest victory came against Notre Dame-West Haven. The Blue Wave won 1-0 at Darien Ice Rink on a late goal in the third period on Monday. The Green Knights were No. 1 at the time and with the loss dropped to No. 2 this week. Darien went from No. 3 to No. 1 and have gone 4-0-1 against Top 10 teams in the New Haven Register/GameTimeCt.com Top 10 Poll. This includes a 1-0 win over Fairfield Prep.
Defense is Darien’s forte this season with six returning defensemen – Jack Massie, Sam Knowlton, Brendan Cassidy, Nick Allam, Nick Tuzinkiewicz and Aidan Loh. In his first full season as Darien’s starting goalie, Michael Colon has made an impact. He earned his third shutout of the season against the Green Knights.
How good is Darien?
“Darien is a good, defensively sound team,” Notre Dame-West Haven coach Tim Belcher said Tuesday morning. “They have experienced defensemen and solid goaltending and anytime you put those two ingredients together, you are going to be successful.
“They played a good game on Monday night and were one better than us. I think it will give our guys some motivation to work even harder for the next time we play.”
Among the top forwards for the Blue Wave are seniors Tommy Watters, Connor Davis, Dillion Fitzpatrick and Robbie Juterbock and juniors Tighe Sullivan, Jack Pardue and Craig Miller. Watters had the gamne-winning goal for Darien against the Green Knights, scoring with 45 seconds left in the third period.
In a story that appeared in the Stamford Advocate, after the game Darien coach Chris Gerwig said, “This victory was our best team effort in my three years here at Darien. It measures up with our early season win over Fairfield Prep.”
If you are a high school hockey fan, you might want to circle Feb. 5 and Feb. 17 on your calendar.
The Blue Wave will have a rematch with the Jesuits next Wednesday (Feb. 5) at Darien Ice Rink at 6 p.m. and with the Green Knights on Feb. 17 at Bennett Rink in West Haven at 4 p.m.
BIG TURNAROUND FOR THE RAMS
Starting the season 1-4 would have some coaches concerned and even frustrated. Cheshire boys hockey had that tough start this season but coach Karl Sundquist fully expected the Rams’ fortunes to turn around.
And they have, as the Rams have gone 4-1 in their last five games to even their record at 5-5.
“We really didn’t panic after starting 1-4,” Sundquist said. “We had a lead at some point in the third period of all five games we had played. We lost to East Catholic and Xavier in OT. We were in every game.
“We knew if we kept at it the puck would start bouncing our way. After the 1-4 start, we played good defensive hockey and only gave up four goals in our next four games in winning four straight.”
Sundquist said the Rams’ greatest strength is their depth. There are 11 seniors and the Rams are three lines deep, a huge positive competing on the Division II level.
Senior Luke Vendetto leads the offense with 13 goals and six assists. Senior Joe Solla has started every game in goal and has played very well with a .927 save-percentage and 2.2 goals-against average. Senior Dan Purslow leads the defense in scoring with a goal and nine assists.
The turning point for the Rams was defeating Division II power Amity 4-1 in a rematch on Jan. 11. The win moved the Rams to 4-4. In their first meeting Dec. 27, the Spartans won 6-4.
“I’ve always had a ton of respect for (coach) Gary Lindgren and his Amity teams and his players and this year is no different,” Sundquist said. “His stud is Adam Shea, a good hockey player and a great kid. I love the way he plays. We did a much better job containing him in the second game.
“First time around he had three goals and only one in our second game, but boy was that a pretty goal. We definitely gained a lot of confidence that game beating them the second time around.”
The Rams’ goal is to qualify for the Division II SCC-SWC Hockey League tournament.
“The game (today) versus (SCC-SWC rival) Milford (at Wesleyan Ice Rink, Middletown, 7 p.m.) is big because it looks like a three-team race for the fourth spot in the league tournament between us, Milford and Hand,” Sundquist said. “We are looking at it as a must-win situation. If we can contain (Milford forward) Zach White and (Hand forward) Ben Solin in a couple weeks in the Hand rematch (Feb. 8, Wesleyan, 10:15 a.m.) we like our chances of getting in.
“There is still a lot of hockey left. We know we are a tough team to match up against. We know we can make some noise in both postseason tourneys (league and CIAC D-II) if we get there.”