DARIEN — The Darien girls ice hockey team had to feel like history was repeating itself.
The Wave was leading 2-0 in its state quarterfinal game when Greenwich sophomore Emiri Fukuchi scored with 2:58 remaining to put the Cardinals back in it.
The moment brought back memories of last week’s FCIAC semifinals, when Greenwich erased a two-goal deficit with three minutes to play and beat Darien in overtime.
This time, however, the Wave closed it out.
Led by a great effort from junior goalie Hallie Kreppein and the defense, the three-time defending state champion Blue Wave held off Greenwich for a 2-1 victory Saturday at the Darien Ice House.
— The Darien Times (@DarienTimes) March 3, 2019
For Wave head coach Jamie Tropsa and the Blue Wave, the last three minutes had the hearts racing.
“Greenwich is a very good team and I give them a lot of credit,” Tropsa said. “They have a lot of girls who compete and never give up, ever. That being said, we knew what we were in for. Those last few minutes were trying.”
No. 3 Darien (16-4-1) will now move into the semifinals of the CHSGHA State Tournament, and will face No. 2 West Haven/SHA on Wednesday at The Rinks at Shelton.
For No. 6 Greenwich (15-7), the FCIAC runner-up this season, the ending was tough to take.
“It’s heartbreaking,” Greenwich head coach Alex Lerchen said. “The season is so long and grueling and you put every ounce of energy into it and still come up short — it stings.”
The game marked the fourth meeting between the two FCIAC powers this season, with Darien winning three times. The Wave shut out the Cards 2-0 and 1-0 during the regular season before the 4-3 overtime loss in the league semifinals.
This time around, Darien maintained its performance-level from start to finish.
“The key for us — we back-checked hard and our feet were moving,” Tropsa said. “The last time we played Greenwich, midway through the game, our feet stopped moving. Tonight we followed through and kept moving and kept our heads in the game. It was a much better overall effort.”
Kreppein collected 15 saves and the Wave had a big game from the defensive corps, which featured junior Cate Droogan, sophomore Catherine Martin and freshmen Ceci Stein and Sarah Hearns,
“She was definitely on her game tonight,” Tropsa said of Kreppein. “I felt bad that we had the little letdown at the end. That was more of a collective group letdown. But she definitely had a great game.”
“I’ve been giving (the defensemen) tips and they’ve been telling me some things that I can do so we’ve learned from each other,” Kreppein said. “We’ve become closer and now we know what we’re all doing. They’ve been blocking a lot of shots and then letting me get the things I can get.”
Greenwich had the advantage early on thanks to a Darien penalty four minutes in, but Kreppein and the defense keep the game scoreless.
Darien turned up the heat in the second period, leading 8-2 in shots and putting constant pressure on Greenwich’s defense and sophomore goalie Hannah Goldenberg (23 saves).
The Cards managed a couple of open looks near the end of a power play with four minutes to go in the second, but a shot by senior co-captain Jennifer Kelly was wide, and Kreppein then gloved an attempt by junior Sydney Orszulak.
The Blue Wave finally put one on the scoreboard with 2:57 to play in the second stanza. Martin fired a shot from the point and junior Caitlin Chan cleaned up the rebound for the goal.
Early in the third period, Darien had a two-on-one break and junior Colleen Cassidy delivered a pass to junior Kit Arrix for a goal to make it 2-0 with 12:06 remaining.
The Wave appeared to have widened the gap later in the period, but another shot by Arrix was ruled to have hit the crossbar, keeping the margin at two goals.
Greenwich cut the deficit in half when Kelly blazed up the right side and set up the goal by Fukuchi.
“Of course, we were all afraid that could happen again,” Kreppein said, referencing the FCIAC semis. “But we all learned from that and we worked 10 times harder this time, and it worked out our way.”
The Cards pulled Goldenberg from the net with 1:01 remaining and a penalty on Darien’s Kelly Raymond gave Greenwich a 6-on-4 for the final 20.4 seconds, but the Wave fought off the attack for the win.
“It was a story of whoever outhustled the other was going to win,” Lerchen said. “There wasn’t anything tactically-wise that would win the game. It was just getting pucks to the net and getting rebounds. They outhustled us for a good portion of the second period and that hurt us.”
PLAYER OF THE GAME
Hallie Kreppein, Darien. Kreppein was in fine form, making 15 saves against 16 shots and keeping a tough Greenwich offense off the scoreboard until there was 2:58 remaining.
“We take one shift at a time. The FCIAC season is over, we knew this is a new, fresh season, we’ve got to forget what happened (in the FCIAC semis) and just move forward. Hopefully, we’ve learned from what happened before.” — Darien head coach Jamie Tropsa
DARIEN 2, GREENWICH 1
Greenwich 0 0 1 – 1
Darien 0 1 1 – 2
1st period: No Scoring; 2nd period: D – Caitlin Chan (Catherine Martin) 12:03; 3rd period: D – Kit Arrix (Colleen Cassidy, Olivia Toscano) 2:54; G – Emiri Fukuchi (Jennifer Kelly) 12:02; Saves: G – Hannah Goldeberg 23; D – Hallie Kreppein 15; Shots: G – 16; D – 25
Records: Greenwich (15-7-0); Darien (16-4-1)