DARIEN — Coming off a hellacious one-goal victory in the FCIAC championship game last week, and without its top two leading scorers in Logan McGovern and Brian Minicus, it would be easy to understand if Darien hit a bit of a lull in its Class LL opener on Wednesday.
Instead, the No. 1 Blue Wave scored 22 consecutive goals, downing No. 16 Xavier 23-4. It was the 74th-straight win for the Wave, who will continue their quest for their fifth straight state title in the quarterfinals against No. 8 Wilton at home on Saturday. Darien defeated Wilton 17-5 in the FCIAC semis a week ago.
“The key thing is we needed other guys to step up because we had to sit our two leading scorers,” said Darien coach Jeff Brameier, who opted to sit Minicus and McGovern due to nagging injuries. “Obviously, (Henri) Pfeifle and (Hudson) Pokorny really started out well and (Ethan) Dewbrey played pretty well. I think once they got on a roll we just kind of had our way with them.”
Pfeifle scored four times in the first quarter and the new-look top line combined for 10 goals and five assists while playing until just about the halfway mark of the second quarter.
After the Blue Wave took a 21-0 lead into the half, they opted to take a proverbial knee with the clock running in the second half, passing the ball around the perimeter and only scoring when Connor Darby forced an offensive-zone turnover and connected on a fast break.
Xavier scored four of the final five goals, with John Ford connecting twice and Kyle Cusick and Bradley Rider adding one apiece.
PLAYER OF THE GAME
Pfeifle, Darien. While virtually everyone had a hand in Darien’s win, it was Pfeifle that stepped up early on the first attack line, finishing with four goals and two assists despite being pulled in the second with the lopsided score.
“Everyone has to step up as a team,” Pfeifle said of switching from midfield to attacker, as he has all season. “We talk about it in practice, everyone has to play their role a little bit bigger and better to help replace (McGovern and Minicus) because they’re always scoring and contributing a lot. I think all of us stepped up as a whole.”
GLIMPSE INTO THE FUTURE
While Wednesday was a display of a seemingly endless supply of young talent in Darien, the duo of sophomore Michael Minicus and freshman Holt Matheis was especially dangerous. The two combined for five goals and three assists in just half of a quarter as Matheis was pulled at halftime because he was scoring too much in a blowout game.
“We work together pretty well,” Minicus said. “I can see us in the future, maybe when I’m a senior and he’s a junior, being a nice duo. He’s a really good player.”
EMPTYING THE BENCH
Because of the score, Brameier was able to work in all healthy players on his 55-man playoff roster—including four different goalies. Having the luxury of underclassmen getting playoff experience is just one of the many reasons Darien is able to seamlessly reload from one season to the next.
“That’s why they’re here, to gain valuable experience,” Brameier said. “Obviously, game experience like this is good for them, but also, they’re getting two more weeks of practice time, two more weeks of reps against high-level kids and they’re competing for the spots for next year, even now.”
NO. 1 DARIEN 23, NO. 16 XAVIER 4
XAVIER 0 0 1 3—4
DARIEN 9 12 1 1—24
Scoring: X—John Ford 2 goals, Biagio Parkos 1 assist, Kyle Cusick 1g, Bradley Rider 1g, Frank Romeo 2a; D—Henri Pfeifle 4g 2a, Tanner Strub 2g, Hudson Pokorny 3g 3a, Jack Joyce 1g 1a, Ethan Dewbrey 3g, Jackson Peters 1g 1a, Holt Matheis 3g 2a, Blake Sommi 1g, Michael Minicus 2g 1a, Ryan Darby 1a, Jamison Moore 1g, Carter Flanagan 1a, Charlie Walsh 1a, Connor Darby 1g, Austin Dehmel 1g. Goalies: X—Devin Kelley (2 saves), Grant Barber (2). D—Sean Collins (5), Andy Demopoulos, Spencer Smith (1), Alexander Schuddeboom (1). Shots: X—15; D—34.