DARIEN -- The Darien boys soccer team kept the pressure on from the get-go and eventually saw its efforts pay off in a 3-0 win over visiting New Canaan on Friday afternoon.
The Rams fended off the Blue Wave throughout most of the first half, but a late opening-half goal by Jack Kniffin broke the ice and got the ball - and the Wave - rolling.
Darien added a pair of early second-half net-finders and cruised to victory.
Both teams came into the FCIAC tilt with identical records; the Blue Wave improved to 4-6-2 and the Rams slipped to 3-7-2.
As part of Breast Cancer Awareness Month, the host team led the efforts of raising money for the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center.
Alex Gunya and Graham Helgans both found the back of the net less than 12 minutes into the second half to effectively put the game away.
Aidan Brannigan assisted the first two goals and Helgans was unassisted after he took advantage of a miscommunication on the part of New Canaan's players, got control of a loose ball near the top of the 18-yard box and fired a high shot into the net.
Both coaches found some room for improvement after things ended.
"I think for the first 25 minutes we were the better team. We should have put the game away earlier," Darien coach Jon Bradley said.
All three of Darien's tallies, New Canaan coach Richard Sutherland claimed, came about thanks in large part to his team's miscues.
"We couldn't deal with the long balls. We couldn't deal with the set pieces," Sutherland said.
The first goal resulted from Kniffin being left unmarked, and the second happened, in part, because the Rams allowed too much space for the Wave players to set things up.
"We were punished," Sutherland said.
Darien finished with a 9-4 advantage in shots toward the goal.
Bradley, whose team now needs two victories in its final four games to qualify for the state tournament, was pleased with the effort his team put forth.
"I think we looked sharp today; we looked dangerous," Bradley said.
"We started off with a lot of chances and we just couldn't capitalize. We came out strong in the second half and were able to pick it up," Darien's Andrew Morgan said. "We needed this win. It was important."
The Blue Wave had a tough schedule in the early going, and Bradley says his team is in prime position to make a run at the postseason.
"We have a very stacked, difficult start to the season," Bradley said. "We're well on our way to reaching our goal of making the state tournament."
After Darien notched its third goal, the Rams threatened to score on multiple occasions, but strong defense by Darien, highlighted by Ryan Lutrell breaking up an opportunity in the middle, helped preserve the shutout.
Both teams suffered injuries off corner kick plays. Darien starting goalkeeper Liam Rischmann (three saves) came out to intercept a corner kick cross. He dove for the ball and landed hard, yet still managed to hang on. After several minutes down on the field, he was able to get to the sideline.
Peter Trismen played the final 14:43 in goal and made a save. New Canaan goalie Griffin Paterson made five saves. Shortly after the first corner kick incident, New Canaan's Matthew Marshall was hurt going for the ball and had to be carried off the field by teammates.
DARIEN 3, NEW CANAAN 0
NEW CANAAN 0 0--0
DARIEN 1 2--3
Records: New Canaan 3-7-2; Darien 4-6-2. Goals: D--Jack Kniffin, Alex Gunya, Graham Helgans. Assists: D--Aidan Brannigan 2. Goalies: NC--Griffin Paterson (5 saves); D--Liam Rischmann (3), Peter Trismen (1). Shots: NC--4; D--9.