DARIEN — It’s a thrill a minute whenever the New Canaan and Darien boys ice hockey teams clash. Just ask Darien senior Blake Swiggett, who made the most of his first game against the rival Rams.
Swiggett took a pass from junior Bennett McDermott and scored low inside the right pipe with 1:15 remaining in overtime as the second-ranked Blue Wave edged No. 7 New Canaan, 4-3, before a raucous crowd at the Darien Ice House on Wednesday.
Swiggett, who said he had “stuck his skates up for three years” before deciding to join the team as a senior, was all smiles after the game.
“It was a lot fun, it was really loud,” Swiggett said. “It was my first New Canaan game ever. I’m a senior, first year playing for Darien, and this was a great experience. The past week, the hype has been great. It’s been a lot of fun at school and on game day it’s even better.”
— Darien H.S. Athletics (@DHSbluewave) January 30, 2019
Darien (9-4 overall, 4-1 FCIAC), ranked No. 2 in the GameTimeCT poll, has now won five straight. The Blue Wave picked up speed as the game went along. In the third period and OT, the Wave scored three of their goals and outshot New Canaan 15-6. Overall, Darien had a 35-27 edge in shots.
“I felt like in the early stages, we were being outplayed and they were getting the higher quality chances,” Darien head coach Mac Budd said. “What I like was that as the game progressed, we cleaned some stuff up and played our best hockey at the end.”
New Canaan (7-6, 4-2) had won four of its last five games and delivered a fine performance, although the loss was difficult to take.
“It’s tougher for the kids,” New Canaan head coach Clark Jones said. “We’re really pleased with how the group played. When you get into a game like that with two good teams going at it, it comes down to little tiny details, and it’s bounces, too. We’re pleased with how well they played, but you feel for them when you walk into the locker room. It was tough and they gave everything they have.”
Darien got a big game from McDermott, who scored the game’s first goal and also had an assist on Swiggett’s winner after winning a faceoff in the zone.
“It was a great faceoff by Bennett,” Swiggett said. “I just drove under the net, and Bennett gave me a great sauce (pass) behind the net. I knew I could beat him wide, so I dug deep, went wide and there was an open spot, I shot it, and it went in.”
“In hockey, particularly high school hockey, faceoffs are huge,” Budd said. “So the big face off win created an opportunity, we score and we win. We work a lot on our faceoffs and I’m happy that in this instance it helped us out.
Darien senior co-captain CJ Hathway had a pair of assists, and senior co-captain James Gregory and sophomore Sam Erickson each scored once.
The Rams got a great game from its top line of senior Gunnar Granito (1 goal, 2 assists) and sophomores Griffin Deane (2 goals, 1 assist) and Boden Gammill (2 assists), which accounted for all three goals.
“Griffin Deane is a hard-nosed player, he moves his feet and he gets to the net,” Jones said. “Gunnar, when he has the puck down low, is dangerous, and Boden Gammill sees the ice extremely well. He’ll actually be the guy creating a lot of this stuff out of the gates. I was happy with the way they played today, but we’ve got to start getting production from other lines.”
McDermott started the scoring at the 4:14 mark of the first period when he stuffed in a loose puck after a block by New Canaan goalie Dylan Shane (31 saves).
Deane equalized with a power-play goal with 37.5 seconds to go in the first period.
Granito scored the only goal of the second frame, when he made a sweet move down low and flipped the puck past Wave goalie Henri Pfeifle (24 saves) for a 2-1 lead.
Darien scored twice in the first eight minutes of the third period to take a 3-2 lead. Erickson tied the game when he followed Jamison Moore to the net and scored on a rebound of Moore’s attempt at 5:14.
James Gregory then rifled in a shot from the blue line during a power play at 7:35.
New Canaan answered when Deane scored his second of the game with 2:04 remaining. Granito and Gammill assisted.
That pushed the game into overtime, where the Wave outshot the Rams 7-2 before Swiggett ended it with a win for Darien.
PLAYER OF THE GAME
Blake Swiggett, Darien. In a game which featured several momentum shifts, Swiggett ended things on a high note for Darien with his overtime goal.
“It was another great game. It seems like almost every game we have has been a great one and they’re fun games to coach and I’m sure they’re fun games to play in. Needless to say, this game could’ve gone either way. Both teams played well and in these circumstances with the rivalry and a big crowd, it can be difficult to play well because there’s so much energy. Both teams did a great job.” — Darien head coach Mac Budd
DARIEN 4, NEW CANAAN 3 (OT)
NEW CANAAN 1 1 1 0 — 3
DARIEN 1 0 2 1 — 4
First Period: D — Bennett McDermott (CJ Hathaway) 4:54; NC — Griffin Deane (Gunnar Granito, Boden Gammill) 14:22; Second Period: NC — Gunnar Granito (Campbell Lewis) 3:28; Third Period: D — Sam Erickson (Jamison Moore) 5:14; D – James Gregory (Hathaway, Hudson Pokorny) 7:35; NC — Deane (Granito, Gammill) 12:56; Overtime: D — Blake Swiggett (McDermott) 12:45
Goalies: NC — Dylan Shane 31 saves; D — Henri Pfeifle 24 saves. Shots: NC 27; D 35 Records: New Canaan (7-6 overall, 4-2 FCIAC); Darien (9-4, 4-1)