DARIEN — It seems that playoff time is New Canaan’s time.
Jack Johnson scored off a pass from Boden Gammill 6:17 into overtime as the fourth-seeded Rams knocked off No. 1 Darien 2-1 in the FCIAC boys ice hockey semifinals Thursday at the Darien Ice House.
New Canaan (7-6-1), which defeated the Blue Wave 4-3 for last season’s FCIAC championship, will try for a repeat title when they take on No. 2 Greenwich at Hamill Rink on Saturday. The Cardinals defeated No. 2 Fairfield 3-2 in overtime in Thursday’s other semifinal game.
Gammill set up New Canaan’s game-winning goal when he fought through a pair of Darien players to control the puck before zipping a pass out in front to the oncoming Jack Johnson.
— Dave Stewart (@DStewartSports) March 26, 2021
“We wanted to go to the net and we knew if we were driving to the net, we were going to pop one in eventually,” Johnson said. “Boden Gammill made a great play at the net and I was right there and lucky enough to bang it in. It was a great goal.”
The Rams’ Jack Eccleston tied the game at 1-1 with 6:25 remaining in the third period, as a great performance from sophomore goalie Beau Johnson (31 saves) had kept New Canaan within in striking distance despite a distinct advantage in shots for Darien.
The win was the Rams’ second in the tournament, after they had lost five of their final seven regular season games and were sub-.500. They defeated Ridgefield 2-1 on Monday to shift the downward momentum.
“Over the last couple of games, we’ve had some fight in us,” New Canaan coach Clark Jones said. “We’re getting involved physically in games, and not giving up second chances because with Beau (Johnson) or Mason (Pickering), whoever is in the net, we’re going to get those first saves. We did a really good job of keeping most of the shots to where Beau could handle them.”
Darien finished the season with a 7-4-2 record, but was short of its goal of an FCIAC championship. The Blue Wave last took the league crown in 2015.
“They left it all out there, that’s all you can say,” Darien coach Mac Budd said. “It’s obviously a difficult loss for the guys. They played their hearts out and we had the guys out there who have really steered us and guided us to a lot of great success and a lot of big wins the last couple of years. Unfortunately, tonight wasn’t one of them.”
The Wave had the better opportunities in the first two periods and a 21-7 advantage in shots.
Darien didn’t break through for a goal, however, until the 12:20 mark of the second period, when Teddy Dyer redirected a pass from Sam Erickson for the goal 10 seconds into a power play.
The Wave had a great chance to go up by two midway through the third.
Darien’s Jamison Moore dove for the puck near the left pipe and he and New Canaan’s Cam Wietfeldt slid into the wall, also taking down Beau Johnson in the process.
Erickson scooped up the puck and came around the net to the open side, but Gammill got back to knock it away and keep the deficit at one.
Less than a minute later, New Canaan’s Jack Eccleston sent a shot off goalie Teddy DeBeradinis (17 saves) and into the net to tie the score at 1-1 with 6:25 remaining in regulation.
The Rams then punched their ticket to the final with the goal in overtime.
“These guys have experience and that’s a big deal,” Jones said. “We’ve got a goaltender with experience and 18 returning kids who have won before, and that’s an important thing that people might underestimate.”
PLAYER OF THE GAME
Beau Johnson, New Canaan: Johnson was a wall for the Rams, collecting 31 saves as the Blue Wave outshot New Canaan 32-19.
“We’re excited, we love each other, we’re such a tight group and we just want to keep this season going for as long as we can. We’re ecstatic to keep it going and hopefully we’re going to take it home on Saturday night.” – New Canaan senior Jack Johnson