Greenwich’s boys hockey team’s matchup against Darien on Tuesday certainly didn’t resemble its previous meeting against its rival when the squad’s combined for 11 goals.
Tuesday’s rematch at Dorothy Hamill Skating Rink featured only one goal and unfortunately for the Cardinals, it was the Blue Wave that tallied.
Senior forward James Conway scored with 9:09 remaining in the first period, lifting Darien to a hard-fought 1-0 victory over host Greenwich in a key late-season FCIAC Division I game.
Greenwich, which celebrated its Senior Day and was riding a three-game winning streak, sports a 4-3 record and is in third place in the FCIAC Division I. Two of the Cardinals’ three losses are to Darien – they lost to the Blue Wave, 7-4, last month. The Cardinals, who were outshot 31-20, received 30 saves from junior goalie Charlie Zolin.
“Darien played a really good game, they were sharp tonight,” Greenwich coach Jack Duffy said. “They were playing tough in their offensive end and our defensive end. I think they were firing on all cylinders. Charlie did a great job, because they had a lot of opportunities, but I think Darien played an excellent game tonight.”
The Cardinals paid tribute to seniors Thatcher Danielson, Will Mairs, Chris Cataldo, Ben Bates, Jack Hutchins, Sean Duffy, Jake Shreders, Dylan Kronengold and John Cataldo on their Senior Day.
““We had a bit of a slow start in trying to find our game, we weren’t being physical enough, but we found our stride toward the end of the second period and started to be more physical,” said Greenwich defenseman, Ben Bates, one of the Cardinals’ four senior captains. “It’s definitely not our best game, but we are looking forward to playing them in the future. I feel like we came out better in the second period, but we definitely could have still gotten more shots on net.”
The Cardinals could very well play the Blue Wave a third time this season. The win upped Darien’s record to 4-3-2 overall and 4-1-2 in FCIAC play. Currently in second place in Division I of the FCIAC, the Blue Wave would host the Cardinals in the FCIAC Tournament semifinals should they remain in second and third place, respectively.
“Going up against a rival we were excited,” Zolin said. “We were really looking forward to it. We didn’t come out on the winning side, but we have to get back to the drawing board, get back to practice, work hard and see what we need to do. There are some things we just need to figure out.”
Tuesday’s win against Greenwich had a postseason-type feel to it, with the intensity level high throughout.
“There is no doubt about it, this was one of our best games of the season,” Darien coach Mac Budd said. “It seems like every game in the FCIAC you have to be at your best for three periods or you are not going to win. And even when you are at your best, you come out with a 1-0 win.”
The game’s lone goal occurred 5:51 into the opening period. Controlling the puck, which bounded off the boards behind the net, Conway converted a quick one-timer from the right faceoff circle, going top shelf and giving Darien a 1-0 lead. Conway was in the right place at exactly the right time, as the puck bounced right to him and he found himself 1-on-1 with Zolin. Freshman Thomas Holland was credited with the assist.
““It was a pretty physical game, it was a fast game and I thought we controlled the puck most of the time,” Conway said. “They played well and their goalie stood on his head he had a bunch of good saves for them.”
Darien has been involved in several close games so far this season, losing to Notre Dame-West Haven in overtime, playing New Canaan to a tie and tying Fairfield Ludlowe/Warde. The Blue Wave also lost a one-goal game to the Fairfield co-op team.
“We had a bit of a shaky start, but I think we have picked up a lot of steam and gained some confidence,” Conway said. “It really helped us.”
Added Budd: “We came out flying in the first period, it was absolutely a great period, maybe the best period we played all year. It was another unbelievable high school hockey game. Both teams fought and battled hard. They play fantastic in this building, they play a real gritty and tough game.”
Greenwich’s best moments came during the second period, registering 10 shots on goal. Blue Wave junior goalie Chris Schofield made a key save off a shot from the point by Greenwich junior defenseman Chris Cataldo early in the second period, then covered up a rebound off a scramble in front of the net several minutes later. Junior Wesley Zolin and senior Thatcher Danielson also tested Schofield during the second period, which saw the Blue Wave kill two power plays.
Hutchins, Sean Duffy, Thatcher Danielson, Chris Cataldo and Bates are the Cardinals’ senior captains.
Coach Duffy liked what he saw from his squad during the second period.
“I don’t think we were satisfied with our play in the first period and we came out in the second period and got more opportunities. It was a low scoring game and that’s good from a defensive standpoint, but we’ve got to start banging some pucks home. These games are great. It was impressive that we turned a 7-4 game from the first time we played them into a 1-0 battle.”
The Blue Wave opportunities to increase their advantage, with senior Sam Erickson and junior Patrick Thurlow registering shots, but Zolin kept it a one-goal game.
“It was a pretty physical game, it was a fast game and I thought we controlled the puck most of the time,” Conway said. “They played well and their goalie stood on his head he had a bunch of good saves for them.”
Said Zolin: “We made a lot of mistakes the last time we played them, especially on my part and we got beat pretty badly, so we came in here today optimistic that we could play better. We didn’t get the result we hoped for, but we’re getting better and we’ll probably see them in the playoffs in two weeks.”