DARIEN -- It took two overtime periods to get the job done, but the No. 2 seed Darien girls hockey team was able to turn on the gas when it mattered to come away with a 2-1 double-overtime victory over No. 3 Ridgefield Wednesday evening in the FCIAC semifinals.
Darien advanced to play New Canaan -- a 7-1 winner over Greenwich -- in Saturday's championship game.
The game at Darien Ice Rink was marked by stellar goaltending, formidable defenses, and, remarkably, not one penalty for either team.
The momentum shifted regularly, and neither team was able to gain a strong foothold. The only time one team was clearly in the driver's seat was in the first period, when Darien's offense unloaded an avalanche of shots. The Blue Wave outshot Ridgefield 8-1.
The Tigers defense bent but did not break, and Darien could not punch through.
"We are usually able to score quickly and often, so for us to be shut out in the first period was definitely frustrating," Blue Wave goalie Shannon Hall said.
Keying in on that frustration, the Tigers came alive in the second period and outshot the Wave by a 9-8 margin. And with just eight seconds left in the middle stanza, Ridgefield's Anna Marcus dished the puck to Meredith Keenan in the high slot who wristed a ringer off the post and into the back of the net. The game was played so tightly by both sides that this felt like it could be the game-winner.
Ridgefield held on tightly to its lead through the waning seconds of the third period.
Desperate to keep its FCIAC season alive, Darien pulled its goalie with 1:24 remaining.
With the extra skater, the Wave offense reached a frenzied pitch in front of Ridgefield's goal, but Tigers goalie Heather Ogden was a brick wall between the pipes.
Finally, with 16 seconds remaining in the game, Darien's Georgia Cassidy was somehow able to stuff the puck through heavy traffic across the goal line for the equalizer, sending the game into overtime.
Both teams had their chances in the first overtime period, but once again the defenses prevailed. The Wave held a slight 3-2 edge in shots in that frame.
With just under four minutes remaining in the second overtime period, Cassidy went coast to coast, did a side-to-side deke and got the puck past Ogden for the game winner, and her second unassisted goal of the night.
"We are pumped, we are out of our minds right now," Hall said. "And we are ready for New Canaan, we are ready to take them on."
"I could not be more proud of my team, they put all the effort in," Ridgefield captain Anna Marcus said. "Darien is a very disciplined team, and we tried to match that, and I think it showed in the game."
"Ridgefield plays with a lot of heart and a lot of grit, and I commend them for coming out and playing as hard as they did," Darien co-captain Ellie Bennett said.
Ridgefield's Ogden made 31 saves while Darien's Hall had 15 saves.
DARIEN 2, RIDGEFIELD 1 (2OT)
Darien 0 0 1 0 1 -- 2
Ridgefield 0 1 0 0 0 -- 1
Goals: Ridgefield: Meredith Keenan; Darien: Georgia Cassidy (2)
Assists: Ridgefield: Marcus
Shots on goal: Darien: 33; Ridgefield 16