NEW CANAAN — Many players on the field for Darien at Dunning Stadium on Friday for the FCIAC boys lacrosse championship weren’t at McMahon’s Jack Casagrande Field two years ago for the 2019 FCIAC semis.
They still remembered who won in 2019: not them. The top-ranked, top-seeded Blue Wave turned that around in 2021 with a convincing, efficient 15-3 win, shutting out No. 4 Staples in the second half.
“We’re bringing it home,” said Matt Minicus, the junior attackman who led everyone with eight points, “and we like that.”
There wasn’t really a facet of the game where Darien lacked Friday. Even on faceoffs, where Staples specialist Henry Dodge didn’t lose one in the first quarter, Tighe Cummiskey came back strong in the final three quarters.
“That’s the best full game we’ve played all year,” Darien coach Jeff Brameier said. “Like you’ve seen, when this offense gets on a roll, they’re difficult to stop. They’ve got a lot of weapons. And the defense is just phenomenal. They took away a lot of great scorers for Staples.”
Darien (18-1) won its first FCIAC title in 1992. Beginning with that year, this is the Blue Wave’s 18th championship in the past 29 tournaments. It had won five titles in a row before Wilton pulled off a 4-3 semifinal upset in 2019, the last time the tournament was held; New Canaan won that championship.
Staples (15-4), the second seed, had never reached an FCIAC championship game before defeating No. 5 Wilton 16-2 in the semis on Wednesday.
“We still have a state tournament,” Wreckers coach Will Koshansky said. “We have to refocus tomorrow, kind of learn from today, kind of flush it and move on. We can’t let this drag us down as we head into states.”
With all those early faceoff wins, Staples had lots of possession time and took lots of shots.
Darien goalie Andy Demopoulos made six first-half saves as Staples outshot the Blue Wave 22-12. But Brameier said his team would settle most of the shots it allowed, giving Demopoulos a chance to make saves. Staples’ offense rarely beat a defender one-on-one.
“Andy definitely kept us on our toes,” Darien defender Sam Erickson said. “He was calling out if we were screening him by what slide package we were running.
“Just being patient with our checks and making sure we cleared the ball well, that definitely helped,” he added. “We didn’t make too many mistakes, and that really helped.”
Darien didn’t make many at the other end, either. It put 31 shots toward the Staples net; 24 were on target, and 15 went in.
“We just kept firing, kept possessing the ball,” said Minicus, who said he didn’t expect a 15-3 kind of game, with running time for the last six minutes.
“Not many turnovers, which definitely helped. We kept shooting, kept changing our planes and kept scoring.”
The teams play their first games in the Class L tournament on Wednesday, Darien against Glastonbury, Staples against the winner of a Saturday game between Ridgefield and Southington, so quite possibly a rematch of a one-goal regular-season game.
The Blue Wave won that championship the last time it was played in 2019.
“It’s definitely fun to make my part in history,” Erickson said, “and we’ll see what we can do two weeks from now.”