SHELTON — Fourth time’s the charm.
After dropping three contests to New Canaan this season — the most recent a double-overtime thriller in the FCIAC semifinals — Darien was finally able to crack the Ram code.
The second-ranked Blue Wave defeated No. 3 New Canaan 3-1 in the state semifinals Friday evening in Shelton.
“New Canaan is a great hockey team and they beat us three times this year,” said Darien coach Jamie Tropsa, whose team will face the No. 4 Suffield co-op Sunday at 4 p.m. at Bennett Rink in West Haven, looking to win its third-straight state title. “We knew what we were up against and these kids did a great job.”
After a scoreless first period that Tropsa categorized as a “chess match,” Darien was able to break through early in the second on Kate Bellissimo’s backhand goal from the left circle.
“It was so great we were able to pull through,” Bellissimo said. “After we scored the first goal, the adrenaline kicked in. We knew what we had to do and we did a good job doing it.”
The Wave made it 2-0 with 4:33 left in the third when Corinne Bevill tallied on a rebound on a Darien power play.
While it was the forecheck that put Darien ahead in the period, the second was the defense’s best stretch as well, allowing just two New Canaan shots.
“That’s our other M.O.,” Tropsa said. “We backcheck hard and make sure we’re covering our own zone. Defensively we’re strong and we try to take that time and space away.”
The Rams cut the lead in half following a strong penalty kill in the third when captain Liz McCarthy poked home a loose puck on the doorstep.
“I thought we came out in the third period the way we needed to,” Ram coach Rich Bulan said. “We put a little pressure on them and got pucks to the net.”
But Bellissimo put the Wave back up two on a rebound at the 2:28 mark, and the Rams weren’t able to battle back.
PLAYER OF THE GAME
Bellissimo, Darien. The freshman was still in middle school when Darien was winning the last two state titles, but she left her mark on the quest for a third, scoring twice and notching an assist.
“It was just as simple as we wanted it more,” Bellissimo said.
WHAT JUST HAPPENED?
With just under two minutes to play, New Canaan’s McKenna Harden bounced a shot from just outside the blue line that found the net and seemingly cut Darien’s lead to one. However, the referees waived off the goal due to a delayed-offside penalty.
Despite falling short in the FCIAC finals and state semis, Bulan isn’t the least bit disappointed with how the season turned out for the Rams.
“I told them at the end, you lost to the defending state champs, you beat them three times; you lost to FCIAC champion Greenwich and you pushed them to the brink,” Bulan said. “It was a huge year…that’s not bad for a year with eight freshmen in the lineup.”
NO. 2 DARIEN 3, NO 3. NEW CANAAN 1
NEW CANAAN 0 0 1—1
DARIEN 0 2 1—3
Goals: NC—Liz McCarthy; D—Kate Bellissimo 2, Corinne Bevill. Assists: NC—Anika Curri. D—Bevill, Bellissimo, Shea van den Broek. Goalies: NC—Blythe Novick (17 saves); D—Hallie Kreppein (11). Shots: NC—12; D—20.