DARIEN — The Darien Blue Wave players were not happy campers as they skated off the ice following the second period of their game against Notre Dame-West Haven on Thursday. A comfortable 3-0 lead had become a 3-2 edge in the final two minutes, as penalties opened the door for Notre Dame.
Darien, however, was about restart its engines.
Senior CJ Hathaway scored a power play goal 3:02 into the third period and opened the floodgates as the Wave rolled to a 7-3 victory over the Green Knights at the Darien Ice House.
Hathaway, who had a goal and three assists, said the Wave just needed to regroup between periods.
“It was a little scary in the locker room, but we just got fired up, got back on the ice and everyone started flying,” Hathaway said. “It was awesome. We were positive, everybody got in a good mood and we were shooting the puck hard, shooting it well and hitting the net. Everything just went well.”
The game was rife with penalties — 13 in all — and, in turn, power play goals. Darien scored four goals with a man advantage, including three in the third period, and all three of Notre Dame-West Haven’s goals were during power plays.
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“A big factor tonight for both teams was special teams play,” Darien head coach Mac Budd said. “Both teams did very well on the power play. They scored goals when we were a man down and we did our best work when they were a man down. We’ve been working hard on the power play the whole season and earlier in the season, the going was a little tougher, but it seems to be clicking. There’s good movement, good shots and a good net-front presence. I was very happy.”
The victory sends Darien (16-4) into the playoffs with a 12-game winning streak. The Wave is the No. 2 seed in the FCIAC tournament and has a bye into the semifinals on Wednesday, Feb. 27.
Notre Dame-West Haven dropped below the .500 mark at 8-9-1 and has been riding a roller coaster of wins and losses throughout the winter. The Knights host NFI at 1 p.m., Saturday, and play at Notre Dame-Fairfield on Tuesday, Feb. 26, to close the regular season.
“We were right in there, but we keep coming out of the chute slow,” Notre Dame head coach Larry Vieira said. “We cannot do that. It was great that we came back and made it 3-2, but you exert so much energy to get back to that level, that you don’t have the energy to get over that hump.”
Several Darien players had multiple-point games. In addition to Hathaway’s performance, senior James Gregory and sophomore Sam Erickson each had three assists; senior Brian Zaffino had a goal and an assist; and junior Bennett McDermott scored twice. Sophomore Jamison Moore, senior Hudson Pokorny and sophomore Sean Bradley also scored.
The Wave’s second line of McDermott, Hathaway and senior Blake Swiggett was in fine form with three goals and four assists.
“Our second line has a lot of power and we haven’t been scoring as much as we’ve wanted to,” Hathaway said. “But finally everything just started to click.”
For the Knights, sophomore Rory Andriole, and seniors Michael Card and Ian Hayden had goals.
Moore scored the only goal of the first period to give Darien a 1-0 lead and Zaffino and Pokorny added second-period goals to give the Wave its 3-0 advantage.
The deficit narrowed quickly when Notre Dame scored twice in a span of 31 seconds.
Senior John Luzzi centered a pass from behind the net and Andriole tapped it in with 1:19 on the clock, and Card then rifled the puck high past Wave goalie Henri Pfeifle (15 saves) with 48 seconds remaining in the second period.
In the third, Hathway made it 4-2 when he one-timed a pass from Gregory and beat Notre Dame goalie Conner Smith (27 saves) to his glove side.
Less than three minutes later, Erickson sent a sweet pass back through his legs to McDermott, who scored to the top left corner for a 5-2 lead with 9:10 remaining.
Notre Dame’s Hayden stemmed the tide when he scored a power play goal at the 7:50 mark, but McDermott and Bradley scored two power play goals in the final five minutes to nail down the win.
“I was obviously disappointed with our lack of poise and discipline in the second period,” Budd said. “We were up 3-0 and it seemed we were on our way to a grind-it-out type of victory. Then we set ourselves back a little bit and made it a tight game, 3-2. The good news is we came back in the third period, got our stuff together, took advantage off some of their penalties and put the game away.”
“You cannot make mistakes against this level of competition,” Vieira said. “Our work ethic was good, our compete level was good, but I’m very disappointed because we haven’t taken penalties like that all year. Our immaturity showed up today and that’s unacceptable. We looked undisciplined and we haven’t done that, but tonight we did. We’re going to be in adverse situations in the playoffs and we cannot have that happen.”
The Wave now turns the page to the postseason and is happy with where the team stands.
“We’re exactly where we want to be with the bracket in the FCIAC and states,” Hathaway said. “We like how we’re playing and we like our spot.”
PLAYER OF THE GAME
CJ Hathaway, Darien. Hathaway, a senior, led the Blue Wave with four points on a goal and three assists. It was also his third-period goal which slowed Notre Dame’s comeback bid, turning a one-goal lead into a 4-2 advantage.
“I’m very happy with where we are as a team. It’s been a fabulous team to coach, the guys work hard, they’ve got a great culture in the locker room as well as on the ice, and they work hard for one another. I think all of our preparation has been a build up towards this. We want to make sure we’re playing our best hockey over the next two or three weeks.” — Darien head coach Mac Budd
DARIEN 7, NOTRE DAME-WEST HAVEN 3
NOTRE DAME 0 2 1 – 3
DARIEN 1 2 4 – 7
1st period: D – Jamison Moore (Sam Erickson, Matt Stein) 3:18; 2nd period: D – Brian Zaffino (CJ Hathaway) 5:16; D – Hudson Pokorny (James Gregory, Hathaway) 12:05; ND – Rory Andriole (John Luzzi) 13:41; ND – Michael Card (John D’Errico) 14:12 PP; 3rd period: D – Hathaway (Gregory, Blake Swiggett) 3:03; D – Bennett McDermott (Erickson) 5:50; ND – Ian Hayden (Kevin Millea) 7:50; D – McDermott (Hathaway, Gregory) 10:54; D – Sean Bradley (Zaffino, Erickson) 12:09
Goalies: NDWH – Conner Smith 27 saves; D – Henri Pfeifle 15 saves
Shots: NDWH 18; D 34
Records: Notre Dame-West Haven (8-9-1); Darien (16-4-0)