Call it New Canaan vs. Darien, Round Four.
The two rivals will square off for the FCIAC girls ice hockey championship for the second consecutive season when they meet at 4 p.m., Saturday, at the Darien Ice House.
Second-seeded New Canaan punched its ticket to the title game as junior Kaleigh Harden delivered a hat trick in a 4-0 shutout of No. 3 Trumbull/St. Joseph in the semifinals Thursday night in Darien. The top-seeded Blue Wave had earlier defeated Greenwich 4-2 to reach the final.
The game will be a rematch of last year’s FCIAC final, won by Darien 3-1. The two teams have already played three times this season, with Darien (9-2-1) winning the first meeting 2-1, and New Canaan (11-1) taking the next two 4-3 in overtime and 1-0.
As far as New Canaan coach Rich Bulan is concerned, any time the two rivals meet, it’s a battle royale.
“I’d love to play them 10 times a year and I don’t even care if I went 3-7, it’s just great hockey,” Bulan said. “We’re so evenly matched.”
The Rams managed to get past a dangerous Trumbull team which won its first-ever FCIAC playoff game 6-2 over Stamford/Westhill/Staples in Monday’s quarterfinals.
New Canaan trounced the Eagles 9-0 during the regular season, but Trumbull kept the semifinal game scoreless through the first period, despite being outshot by the Rams 19-6.
“That first time, we jumped them early, scored a lot of goals early and it took a lot out of them,” Bulan said. “This time, they were settled from the beginning, they clogged the middle, they stayed disciplined, not letting us run around in front of the net, and we had to take everything wide.”
Trumbull’s freshman goalie Elsa Haakonsen also had a solid game and collected 46 saves.
Harden started the scoring with a top-shelf goal off assists from Grace Crowell and Courtney O’Connell just 29 seconds into the second period.
Harden then went bar down for her second goal at the 10:13 mark of the second period, and Caitlin Tully added the Rams’ third goal with 1:02 remaining in the frame.
Harden completed her hat trick in the third period.
“She’s just a gamer,” Bulan said of Harden, who is closing in on 100 career goals. “The way she tied the (4-3) game against Darien and the way she came up tonight when we needed a lift and popped a quick goal in. She’s a gamer for us.”
Bulan is now expecting the Blue Wave to come out with revenge on its mind after losing their last two games to New Canaan.
“I think they’ll be fired up, ready to go, and they’ve got very good leadership on that team, like we do,” Bulan said. “I’m expecting it to be a very good game. It’s going to be one of those games where you can’t blink because if you blink, the other team will take advantage.”
No. 2 NEW CANAAN 4, No. 3 TRUMBULL/ST. JOSEPH 0
Trumbull 0 0 0 – 0
New Canaan 0 3 1 – 4
New Canaan: Kaleigh Harden 3g, Grace Crowell 2a, Caitlin Tully 1g, Courtney O’Connell 2a, Maddie Kloud 1a, Lexie Tully 1a
Goalies: T – Elsa Haakonsen 46 saves; NC – Blythe Novick 13
Records: Trumbull/St. Joseph 8-4-1, New Canaan 11-1