DARIEN — After the New Canaan girls ice hockey team had celebrated its victory against Darien in the FCIAC championship game, senior goalie Blythe Novick perfectly summed up the respect between the two rivals.
“It’s just who wants it more that day and who can push it that extra step,” Novick, a four-year starter, said. “Today was our day but that doesn’t mean that all of those seniors and all those girls aren’t incredible players because they are.”
In the fourth one-goal game between the two FCIAC powers this season, junior Grace Crowell scored the game-winning goal off a pass from senior Kelly Benson with 1:22 remaining in overtime, as New Canaan came from behind to defeat Darien 2-1 Saturday at the Darien Ice House.
— Dave Stewart (@DStewartSports) March 20, 2021
It was Crowell’s second goal of the game — she also had the equalizer late in the second period — and capped a back-and-forth battle.
“I saw an opportunity 2-on-1, I’ve been playing with Kelly for super long and we have great chemistry,” Crowell said. “I have faith in her, she made a great pass and I just hoped it would go in the net.”
It was New Canaan’s league-best eighth FCIAC championship, and gave the Rams some revenge for last year’s 3-1 loss to Darien in the league final. New Canaan (12-1) has appeared in the last four FCIAC finals, winning in 2019 and 2021. The Blue Wave ranks second with six FCIAC titles.
For Darien (9-3-1), it was a tough end to a stellar season.
“It was two great teams and things didn’t work out our way,” Darien coach Jamie Tropsa said. “You’ve got to give them a lot of credit. That’s a hell of a team over there and it was a hell of a hockey game.”
Darien had gained a 1-0 lead during a power play in the second period when freshman Maggie Bellissimo sent a shot off Novick and into the net at the 8:22 mark. Senior Nelle Kniffin assisted on the play.
Crowell said the deficit didn’t get the Rams down.
“We don’t really get discouraged and we use it as fuel to come back harder,” Crowell said. “That gave us even more fire under our boots to come back.”
With 1:06 to play in the second period, senior Courtney O’Connell skated around the net and sent a pass in front to Crowell, who cashed in to make it 1-1.
The next 29 minutes were scoreless as goalies Novick (21 saves) and Darien’s Claire Haupt (24 saves) kept the puck out of the nets.
Late in overtime, however, Crowell and Benson took advantage of their 2-on-1 break and the Rams piled onto the ice in celebration.
“It’s always the end goal and we’ve worked so hard for it,” Novick said of the championship. “Given the opportunity to play this year, this is what we wanted. It’s such a great group of girls and we all really wanted it.”
PLAYER OF THE GAME
Grace Crowell, New Canaan: Crowell scored both New Canaan goals as the Rams erased a 1-0 deficit to take the championship.
“This is unlike any other team I’ve ever played on and I’ve been playing sports since I was three years old. I’ve grown up playing with all of these girls and we’ve spent every Friday night skating at the (New Canaan) Winter Club together and playing on lacrosse, hockey and soccer teams together. It’s such a special group of girls and they’re all my sisters.” — New Canaan senior co-captain Blythe Novick