DARIEN — It’s hard to win a game from the penalty box. And though previously unbeaten Notre Dame-West Haven was confident in its ability at five-on-five, Darien took advantage when the Green Knights handed it power plays Saturday night at the Darien Ice House.
Sam Erickson’s hat trick paced the No. 3 Blue Wave past No. 1 Notre Dame 5-2, leaving no one unbeaten in Division I in what could be a year full of boys hockey parity.
“In a high school game, we know, there were some moments, certainly, we could’ve become undisciplined,” Darien coach Mac Budd said. “We could’ve had some retaliation penalties.
“(Staying out of the penalty box) gave us some five-on-threes. It was certainly a factor in the game.”
Erickson scored on two of three five-on-threes for Darien (4-1), both of them giving the Blue Wave a two-goal lead. He scored the last goal on a four-on-four with 6:16 left.
Darien had nine power plays to the Green Knights’ five, some of them shortened by other penalties.
“I get an F. The team is a reflection of the coach,” said Notre Dame coach Larry Vieira, whose team is 7-1. “We’ve been averaging four penalties a game, we took 11, so I did not do a good job preparing us for this game.
“Five-on-five is when we’re at our best. When I can roll three or four lines. .. we’re at our best. Four-on-four is not our strength, and we got away from our strengths.”
Erickson felt the difference at even strength. The Green Knights needed their top players on the penalty kill, affecting them still more at five-on-five.
“It started with the defense down back. We were rolling three lines and four lines, which definitely made it a lot easy on us boys,” Erickson said.
Notre Dame’s Ryan Ahern tied the game at 2 with goals 62 seconds apart early in the second period, the first off a draw, the second off a breakaway.
Darien settled back in, and Matt Fiorita skated around the right circle to fire a shot back inside the left post and give the Wave back the lead a bit over five minutes later. Erickson’s second, completing a tic-tac-toe passing play in the left circle, restored the two-goal lead.
“We talked about, down 2-0, finding that energy to show them what Notre Dame hockey is about, and we did that,” Vieira said. “You cannot expect a team to summon all that up twice.”
Connor Smith made 28 saves for Notre Dame. Chris Schofield stopped 19 for the Blue Wave.
It was, coincidentally, Darien that took an early penalty, an Erickson elbow. But the Wave killed that off and went to work.
Jamison Moore opened the scoring midway through the first (it was credited to Erickson, who said it wasn’t his) off a left-circle faceoff. Erickson scored on the first of two first-period five-on-threes, taking a pass down low on the left side from Matt Stein and putting it over Smith’s shoulder.
“We know what Sam’s capable of. He was in a little bit of a slump. We knew he was going to break out,” Budd said.
“He had a lights-out game, won our hard hat tonight.”
PLAYER OF THE GAME
Sam Erickson scored three goals.
A year after Ridgefield went into the state tournament 22-0, only three teams remain without a loss, all in Division II: WMRP (8-0), Hand (7-0) and Westhill/Stamford (6-0-1 after Saturday’s tie with Division I Immaculate).
“We beat a good hockey team, obviously. They’re No. 1. They’ve played a bunch of good teams. They’re well-coached with good results.” —Darien coach Mac Budd