DARIEN -- Even after wrestling last season's FCIAC crown away from perennial favorite New Canaan, the Darien girls hockey team still looked like a group that had something to prove Wednesday night when it took the ice on Opening Night for its first of two regular season clashes with New Canaan.
The Blue Wave dominated time on the attack, and Amanda Sload and Georgia Cassidy each netted a pair of goals as Darien cruised to a 6-1 victory over its rival at the Darien Ice Rink.
"The first goal was on a powerplay, and I have to credit Schuyler Vanden Broek on the pass. I was able to creep in past one of their wings and into the slot, and I had a pretty open shot on goal," Sload said. "Everyone was really pumped up because we wanted to make a mark. Everyone had some jitters and we made some mistakes, but I think we were really excited to come out and do what we do."
As soon as the puck dropped, Darien advanced it into the New Canaan zone and kept it there for some time, establishing a night-long trend. Just under five minutes in, Darien's Sage Thacher sent a pass to VandenBroek whose shot was stopped, but Georgia Cassidy was there to bury the rebound.
"We have a huge freshman class this year who really have been allowing us to have a defense and just put so many different people in and get people rest," Bennett said. "I think it's a credit to everyone on the team who is just trying to support all their teammates. It's a very unselfish team, which is great to have."
The lone goal of the second period belonged to Sload, as Cassidy and VandenBroek notched assists for the 3-0 lead. Darien's Chandler Kirby narrowly missed a goal after her shot struck the crossbar.
New Canaan earned a powerplay and called a timeout to prepare for it, but ultimately could not solve the Darien defense or goalie Shannon Hall, who made seven saves. The Blue Wave outshot the Rams 35-7, but New Canaan goalie Nathalie Deney made 28 saves as coach Rich Bulan saw some positive signs.
"I was very impressed with Reilly Reed and Bella Marciano as freshmen on defense handling themselves the way they did. Once they got the jitters out, they played solid," Bulan said. "I thought Nathalie played as well as Nathalie could play. (Darien's goals) were gorgeous give and go's in the slot. She kept us in the darn thing as long as she could."
If Julia Arrix's shorthanded goal 48 seconds into the final period didn't ice the contest, Sload's second marker just four minutes later that made the score 5-0 did.
"It was really nice to put so many kids on the ice that could skate and work hard. We just kept wearing them down and it was a really nice win," Darien coach Jamie Tropsa said. "We have a lot of girls who can skate really well and we were just trying to be as aggressive as we could."
Trailing 5-0, New Canaan's Catherine Granito skated in and scored an unassisted goal from close range, but Cassidy went on to score her second marker with less than a minute remaining to close out the five-goal win.
"It's one game. There's 19 more to go. No excuses. Right now they're just a better team. They skate harder, they've got more depth, they're quicker. Hats off to them," Bulan said. "We were still trying to find ourselves with our line combinations. It wasn't what I expected, but I knew it was going to be tough."
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DARIEN 6, NEW CANAAN 1
DARIEN.................................. 3 1 2--6
NEW CANAAN......................... 0 0 1--1
Records: Darien 1-0; New Canaan 0-1. Goals: NC--Catherine Granito; D--Amanda Sload 2, Georgia Cassidy 2, Katie Zaro, Julia Arrix. Assists: D--Schuyler VandenBroek 2, Lauren Cicero 2, Sage Thacher, Ellie Bennett, Samantha Nielsen, Christy Conley. Goalies: NC--Nathalie Deney (28 saves); H--Shannon Hall (7). Shots: V--13; H--11. Highlights: Prior to the start of the game, a moment of silence was held for former New Canaan hockey player Kelsey Durkin, who passed away on Tuesday, Dec. 3.