DARIEN -- Picked by many in the preseason as one of the very top teams in the FCIAC as well as the state, the Darien boys hockey team had a tough test to kick off its season at the Darien Ice Rink on Wednesday afternoon. And it passed with flying colors.
Operating on the power play, Watters gained possession in center ice and skated into the Hamden zone, weaving around two defenders. Closing in on the net, Watters slid a pass to teammate Owen Koorbusch. After the Hamden defensemen and goalie overcommitted for a potential Koorbusch shot, he sent the puck back to Watters for a close-range one-timer with only five seconds left in the man advantage.
"I just tried to weave through a little, got lucky and passed to my good friend Owen. He gave it back and I thought I was dreaming when I saw an open net," Watters said. "We were antsy all day. We wanted to get here and play our best and we did. I think we can only build up from here."
The game-winning power play goal was just the tip of the iceberg for a Blue Wave special teams units came out on top all night. Darien successfully killed off all three Hamden power plays while going 1-for-2 on the power play.
"I'm very proud of our boys today for showing up and playing obviously a great team," Darien coach Chris Gerwig said. "It's a nice, satisfying feat for our boys to start off getting that first `W' under our belt. We worked very hard tonight."
Darien's Brendan Hathaway seemingly couldn't wait to get the season underway, as the senior captain gave his team a 1-0 lead just 28 seconds into the new campaign. Hathaway received a pass from fellow captain Trent Bergin and tipped his shot into the back of the Hamden net for the early advantage.
"We had to come out hard to beat a team like Hamden. Putting that first goal in gave us a spark to keep on going," Hathaway said. "It's great to see a junior like Tommy Watters put in the game-winning goal, and it's great to see us finish out a tough game like that."
"What are you going to do? Things like that happen," Hamden coach Bill Verneris said of the early Darien goal. "It was a great game. I knew they had a good team. We discussed it that it would probably come down to discipline at the end, and we were the guilty party."
Hamden answered back when Mike Regan won a race to a loose puck inside the right faceoff circle and unleashed a blistering slap shot past Darien goalie Michael Collins with 5:26 remaining in the opening period. Tim Gontarski and Dan Chicoine picked up the assists.
It was the only blemish on an otherwise perfect night for the Darien netminder, who stopped 19 of Hamden's 20 shots.
"Mike has put in his time. He was our third goalie last year. He really stepped up tonight and was a big reason we won that game," Gerwig said. "I thought we settled down and played very well in the third period. I don't feel that we played to our overall ability, but I think we did a lot of good things out there to give us a chance to win the game. That's what you've got to do when you play great teams like Hamden."
Pressing for the equalizer, Hamden had a few opportunities but was denied by several saves by Collins and some hard hitting by Dana Wensberg and Koorbusch. Hamden's final shot on net came with 2:20 remaining, but Matt Barnett was stopped by Collins.
Up next for Darien is a home tilt with West Haven on Saturday at 5:10 p.m., followed by an "away" clash against New Canaan on Wednesday at 4 p.m. Both games are at the Darien Ice Rink.
"We haven't beaten Hamden since I was in high school, so it feels good to come out as a senior and take care of them early," Hathaway said.
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DARIEN 2, HAMDEN 1
HAMDEN................................ 1 0 0--1
DARIEN.................................. 1 0 1--2
Records: Darien 1-0, Hamden 0-1.
Goals: D--Brendan Hathaway, Tommy Watters; H--Mike Regan. Assists: D--Trent Bergin, Owen Koorbusch. H--Tim Gontarski, Dan Chicoine. Goalies: D--Michael Collins (19 saves); H--Matt Hoff (19); Shots: D--21; H--20.