NEW HAVEN >> The Darien boys hockey team was built around its defense this season with its strong goaltending (Mike Colon) and seven returning defensemen. When the Blue Wave faced off with Notre Damne-Fairfield in the CIAC Division I semifinals on Wednesday, players and coaches expected nothing less than a close, hard-fought game with the Lancers.
And it was.
But with the score tied at 1 in the third period, the Blue Wave, for at least a 31-second spurt, became an offensive juggernaut.
Forward Tommy Watters scored his second goal of the game at 10:59 of the third period and 31 seconds later Nick Allam added another goal to lead No. 4 Darien to a 3-1 upset victory over top-seed Notre Dame-Fairfield at Yale’s Ingalls Rink.
Darien will face Fairfield Prep, a 4-3 overtime winner over Notre Dame-West Haven, in the Division I championship oin Saturday at 2 p.m. at Ingalls Rink.
“We’re known as a defensive team, that’s the way we’re built,” Watters said. “No one thinks of us as an offensive team and we’re not, really. But during that whole game we sensed the momentum shifting and always changing. When I scored and we went ahead 2-1, we sensed all the momentum going back our way.
“On those two quick goals we just took advantage of our opportunities and got the right bounces.”
After a slow start in the first period, the Lancers started dominating play and ended up outshooting the Blue Wave 12-6 in the period and taking a one-goal lead into the first intermission.
Darien took the first four shots of the game. but ND goalie Zak Bouve of Milford made stick saves on each one, including a close-range shot from Owen Koorbusch near the right post.
The shots evened up at 4-apiece and the ND pressure increased as the period wore on. Colon was making some solid saves for Darien but one shot eventually flew past him.
With the Lancers swarming the left side of the net, Nick Carloto grabbed a loose puck, tapped it to Dan Walsh of Milford who wristed the puck into the lower right corner of the net for a 1-0 lead at 13:37 of the first period.
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The second period belonged to the Blue Wave who outshot the Lancers 8-3 and ended up with the equalizer.
Watters found himself in the right place at the right time to get the tying goal. Bouve made a save off a shot from the left circle and the puck rebounded to Watters who was all alone in the middle of the right circle.
Watters’ low rising slap shot flew by Bouve’s outstretched leg pad and into the net for the 1-1 tie at 4:57 of the second period, setting up the wild third period finish with its two-goal spurt.
Watters scored from about 12 feet out with his shot clanging off the left post and into the net to make it 2-1 4:01 into the third period (at 10:59). Darien controlled the puck after the ensuing face-off. Allam had the puck at the bottom of the left circle and wound up for a shot. The puck flew between Bouve’s pad and the left post for the 3-1 lead with 3:30 left in the game.
“Defense wins championships and our defense needed to slow down the high-powered offense of Notre Dame tonight,” Darien coach Chris Gerwig said. “We didn’t allow them to take advantage of their speed. We’re a team of 23 guys and all 23 contributed to this win tonight.”
Bouve ended up with 17 saves and Colon had 21 saves.
“That was a tough one to lose,” Notre Dame-Fairfield coach Steve Hetherman said. “But we lost to the better team. They minimized our second chances and in the third period we had scoring chances and didn’t bury them.”
Darien 3, Notre Dame-Fairfield 1
(at New Haven)
Darien 0 1 2 — 3
Notre Dame-Fairfield 1 0 0 — 1
First period—NDF: Dan Walsh (Nick Carloto) 13:37; Second period—DR: Tommy Watters 4:57; Third period—DR: Tommy Watters (Jack Massie) 10:59; Nick Allam (Rob Juterbock, Sam Knowlton) 11:30;
Shots—DR: 20; NDF: 22;
Saves—NDF: Zak Bouve 17; DR: Mike Colon 21;
Records—Notre Dame-Fairfield 18-5-1; Darien 22-3-1