STAMFORD -- The Westhill boys hockey team did everything it could to hang with Darien in a Wednesday night matchup at the Terry Conners rink, and after two tight periods, the game's outcome was still up in the air.
The third period, however, was a totally different story, as the Blue Wave scored four goals to run away with a 5-0 shutout victory.
Brendan Hathaway wasted little time giving his team the lead. The senior captain won a battle for a loose puck in the corner of the attacking zone, skated out in front of the net and roofed a shot over Westhill goalie Tyler Phillipson just 2:23 into the game.
"Me and my linemates Trent Bergin and Jack Pardue were just cycling in the corner. I saw the lane, came out in front and just roofed one top shelf," Hathaway said. "We had expectations to start out the season like this. It was just a matter of if we could do it or not, so I'm happy we got our first FCIAC win tonight, and it's good moving forward."
Although he surrendered an early goal, Phillipson was largely responsible for keeping his team in the game over the first two stanzas. The senior netminder earned the praise of both coaches and made several difficult saves on Darien's Tommy Watters, Jack Knowlton, Craig Miller and Owen Koorbusch, among others.
"(Phillipson) played fantastic tonight. In the end, there were some defensive breakdowns," Westhill coach John Santagata said. "The guys were tired and we were skating with only three defensemen, so a couple guys lost their man in front, and (Darien) skated right in."
Phillipson was especially impressive in the second period, when he denied all 20 shots he faced.
"We threw everything except the kitchen sink at that goaltender and he made some great saves," Darien coach Chris Gerwig said. "Our goaltender Christian Miller in his first game this year pitched a shutout, so I'm very proud and happy for him. The goalies know the routine. Collins is our No. 1 and (Michael) Colon is going to play against Fairfield on Saturday. We're trying to get everybody a little ice time."
Just 1:40 into the final period, Darien's Connor Davis scored to double his team's lead while Watters and Jack Knowlton collected assists.
Including a five-minute major to Sam Knowlton, the Blue Wave went a perfect 5-for-5 on the penalty kill, preventing the Vikings from scoring despite playing short-handed for 13 minutes. Westhill did not take any penalties.
"I'm also proud of our guys because we played all most an entire period short-handed," Gerwig said. "To kill those penalties off, I'm very proud of our shorthanded unit."
With Westhill operating on a powerplay midway through the third, Hathaway scored his second unassisted goal of the contest for the 3-0 lead.
"We were short-handed, Jack Pardue made a great play getting the puck out of the zone. I flew the zone, did a little dipsy-doodle and put it past the goalie," Hathaway said. "I think we made it a little harder for ourselves getting some penalties when we didn't need to get them, but we've been working on special teams a lot and it paid off tonight."
With the game all but out of reach for Westhill, Darien increased its lead to 4-0 with 5:55 remaining when Davis scored his second goal. Once again, Jack Knowlton and Watters tallied assists.
Just over two minutes later, Watters scored a goal of his own after receiving a pass from Brendan Cassidy to close out the scoring at 5-0.
"We're a small team. We don't have the luxury of having four lines like Darien does," Santagata said. "I knew in the third period the wheels were going to come off. I'm very pleased with what they did tonight. We're a blue-collar team."
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DARIEN 5, WESTHILL 0
WESTHILL 0 0 0--0
DARIEN 1 0 4--5
Records: Darien 5-1-1 (1-0-1 FCIAC); Westhill 1-4-1 (0-3 FCIAC)
Goals: D--Brendan Hathaway 2, Connor Davis 2, Tommy Watters. Assists: D--Watters 2, Jack Knowlton 2, Brendan Cassidy. Goalies: D--Christian Miller (13 saves); W--Tyler Phillipson (46). Shots: D--51; W--13.