As Tuesday’s state tournament game between Greenwich and Darien remained scoreless well into the second period, the tension mounted. Then Arthur Devillers scored and Darien’s outlook quickly changed.
The Blue Wave gathered a wave of momentum following Dellivers’ goal and rode it to a hard-fought 3-0 victory over Greenwich in the first round of the CIAC Division I Boys Hockey Tournament at Darien Ice House.
With the win, sixth-seeded Darien (13-8-1) advanced to the Division I Tournament quarterfinals, where it will face third-seeded Northwest Catholic. Meanwhile, the loss ended the season for 11th-seeded Greenwich, which finished with a record of 6-14-1. The Cardinals were 6-5-1 after 12 games, but dropped their final nine games and scored only seven goals in the process. Greenwich was shutout in its final three matchups.
“You get in a mindset where they are tough to come by and you start squeezing the stick a little more,” Greenwich coach Jack Duffy said of the team’s scoring difficulties. “We had a couple of chances really early, we hit a crossbar and you think if you get one of those, maybe it chances your fortunes.”
The defeat marked Greenwich’s third of the season against rival Darien. The Blue Wave beat the Cardinals, 4-2, at an outdoor game held at Greenwich Skating Club, then posted a 5-0 triumph at Darien Ice House last month.
“We really wanted to come here tonight and compete for 45 minutes and I think we did that,” Duffy said. “You hope coming into the playoffs that you can turn things around with an upset win, but it wasn’t meant to be tonight, but I’m really proud of the effort of the kids.”
This meeting between the FCIAC foes was more of a defensive-minded matchup, as shots on goal for both squads were limited. Darien edged Greenwich in shots on goal, 20-19, with senior goalie Chris Schofield earning the shutout win with 19 saves. Junior goaltender Cole Studwell registered 17 saves for the Cardinals, who entered the second period in a scoreless deadlock.
The victors received two goals from senior forward Billy Branca and one tally from Devillers, who notched the game’s go-ahead goal. The Blue Wave went into the game coming off a shutout loss to Ridgefield in the semifinal-round of the FCIAC Tournament. Ridgefield proceeded to win the FCIAC Tournament title.
“We were happy to get the ‘W’ after the loss last week,” Darien coach Mac Budd said. “I thought they responded very well. I thought they responded to the first four or five minutes. They (Greenwich) put us on our heels without, any question, the first four or five minutes and our guys responded.”
The Cards had one of the game’s first scoring opportunities and narrowly missed scoring the opening goal. Greenwich senior defenseman Brendan Frost slapped a shot from just below the blue line that hit the crossbar 50 seconds into the first period. Schofield made a 1-on-1 save off a shot from close in by senior forward Daniel Greenbaum and senior forward Danny Pratley directed a shot toward Schofield from the right wing. Studwell, meanwhile, made eight saves for the Cardinals during the first period.
Greenwich killed a Darien power play early in the second period, but the home team cashed in on their second man-up advantage. The Blue Wave went on a power play due to a too many men on ice infraction and Devillers tallied.
Digging the puck out along the boards, senior forward Alex Garabet slid the puck to Devillers, who from just above the left faceoff dot snapped a one-timer past Studwell, going top shelf, giving Darien a 1-0 lead with 2:36 remaining in the second period.
“I can’t tell you how many times we’ve done that in practice,” Devillers said. “The low guy on the wall, pass across. I knew he was going to be looking for me and that’s what killed us the first game, we didn’t get that first goal, so the first goal was everything. He made an unbelievable play, he got it and passed it across.”
Indeed, the Blue Wave were aiming to get that all-important opening goal.
“The first goal is always the most crucial goal, especially in playoffs when goals are hard to come by,” Devillers said. “We lost the Ridgefield game, because we couldn’t capitalize in the beginning.”
Said Budd: “Arthur is great he is, obviously, one of the goal scorers that we have and he’s put some big goals in for us. He’s risen to the occasion.”
An interference penalty put Darien on the power play at the 9:46 mark of the third period and just one second after the power play ended, the Blue Wave scored. Branca knocked in a rebound, making it 2-0 with 7:45 left in the third period. Sophomore Charlie Schwind and junior Graf Ely were each credited with assists on the play.
“Billy Branca’s goal was huge,” Devillers said. “At 1-0, anything can happen in a playoff game.”
Duffy said: “It’s game of inches and you just can’t give a team like that three power plays.”
Branca’s second goal occurred with 2:55 to go in the game. Ely and junior Bobby Whitaker assisted on the tally, which put the Blue Wave on top, 3-0. Sophomore Thomas Holland and senior Ryan Spengler helped pace the Blue Wave’s defensive effort.
“What I especially like is when we play like that, that’s how we’ve won games, with very good team defense,” Budd said. “We played well in our own end, obviously, Schofield’s been fantastic, our ‘D’ has been fantastic, but our forwards are good – our total team defense is good. That’s how we’ve been winning these games, where they’re low scoring games and today we were lucky.”
“Our defense set the pace early, the backcheck from our forwards,” Devillers noted. “It was just team ‘D’. We let up zero goals. Everyone came in as one team and it was constant pressure – no odd-man rushes and that’s just great play by our defense, they’ve been playing great all year.”
Frost, junior Peter Lewis, senior Jordan Bowbeer, junior Alex McGarvey and sophomore Kyle Allen formed a solid rotation of defensemen for Greenwich.
“We came out and we had a strong first period,” said Frost, who along with senior forward Nate Duffy and defenseman Shea Madden, served as the Cards’ captain. “We had a lot of chances this whole game, we just couldn’t get it into the back of the net and that was just a problem of ours pretty much the whole season. But I’m really proud of our guys, every game they got better. We battled really hard and I think Darien was just able to execute a little bit better.”
Coach Duffy enjoyed watching his captains and seniors on the team lead the squad.
“They’re great kids, I’m always impressed with our guys on this team the last few years. We have a big senior class, they all led very well and they were a tight-knit group. I a lot of respect for these kids.”
Even though victories were hard to come by late in the season, the Cardinals know they put in the maximum effort.
“I don’t think our record shows much about the integrity and talent of this team,” Frost said. “We lost a lot in a row, we had a five-game winning streak, but at the end of the day, this is playoff hockey, so the regular season doesn’t matter, I’m just proud of the effort the boys gave today.”
Categories: Greenwich High, Winter sports
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