Darien pulls away from Ridgefield for second straight FCIAC boys lacrosse championship
Published 11:15 pm, Thursday, May 28, 2015
NORWALK -- Ending each championship game in a large, celebratory pile is a scenario the Darien boys lacrosse team has envisioned all season.
Senior faceoff man Andrew Pugliese certainly made sure the Blue Wave concluded Thursday's FCIAC title game in such a manner once again.
There's no substitute for possession in lacrosse and the Blue Wave had plenty of it in its conference final against Ridgefield, thanks to Pugliese at the faceoff X.
Pugliese won 14 of 18 faceoffs, junior Jack Kniffin recorded a hat trick and third-seeded Darien used a strong defensive effort to register an impressive 9-5 victory over fourth-seeded Ridgefield in the FCIAC Tournament finals at Brien McMahon High School.
The triumph gave the Blue Wave their second straight FCIAC championship and 14th overall -- a conference best.
"We have worked hard all season for this," said Pugliese, the game's MVP. "Coach (Jeff) Brameier has stressed ending the season in a pile. Well, this is one of hopefully, two, that we have accomplished so far."
Junior Hudson Hamill tallied twice, while sophomore Kevin Lindley, senior Ian Burgoyne, junior Colin Minicus and junior Christian Trifone each added single goals for Darien. The Blue Wave held a 6-4 halftime advantage and 8-6 lead after three quarters.
The Tigers (14-5) received two goals apiece from senior attackmen Ryan Dunn and Schuyler Blair. Ridgefield, which led early, was within striking distance the entire game, but its possession time was limited.
"We just played way too much defense," said Ridgefield coach Roy Colsey, whose squad was edged by Darien by one goal during the regular season. "The MVP of the tournament was phenomenal, he didn't lose many faceoffs. I thought our defense was courageous, but our guys just played way too much defense."
Trailing 6-4, Ridgefield closed to within a goal of the Blue Wave when Dunn scored off a dodge and spin move with 5:06 remaining in the third quarter. The Tigers seemed poised to enter the final quarter facing just a one-goal deficit.
Tthe Blue Wave , however, showed their penchant for striking quickly. Minicus moved the ball to Trifone, who put a shot from close in past Ridgefield goalie Brendan Winne, making it 7-5 with 12.3 seconds to go in the third quarter. Pugliese won the ensuing faceoff and fed a pass to Minicus, who tallied in transition, giving Darien an 8-5 edge with 5.7 seconds left in the third stanza.
"That was a huge part of the game," Brameier said. "We had played sloppy during that part of the half, we made some poor choices on offense. But then Minicus hitting Trifone on that first one and Pugliese winning the faceoff really gave us a lift."
The Blue Wave effectively melted time off the clock, patiently moving the ball during the fourth quarter. When the Tigers had the ball, Blue Wave defenders Mark Evanchick and Daniel Traver were up to the task in front of Cornell. Evanchick had the tough task of defending Ridgefield's Under Armour All-American attack Simon Mathias.
"Our defense played awesome tonight," Evanchick said. "To hold a great offensive team like Ridgefield to five goals is a great feeling. Ryan Cornell made some great saves, he really helped spark us throughout the game."
A sophomore, Cornell made eight saves for the Blue Wave.
"It's surreal, this time last year I never thought I would be in this position," Cornell said. "I'm happy for all our seniors, it's a great way for them to finish the tournament."
Winne helped keep it a close game, registering 13 saves for the Tigers.
"He played great in goal, I'm really happy with how we played," Colsey said. "We just didn't have the ball enough to make a run at scoring, but it wasn't due to a lack of effort. We worked hard and we did a lot of positive things, but Darien deserved to win this game."
Senior midfielder Chris Bova gave Ridgefield a 1-0 lead, tallying on a low shot at the 5:15 mark of the first quarter. With the Tigers controlling the tempo, Dunn gave his team a 2-0 advantage, scoring off a run from behind the net.
Kniffin gave the Blue Wave a spark heading into the second quarter, scoring off a Pugliese pass following the faceoff, making it 2-1 with only 19.8 seconds to go in the opening quarter.
Junior Jack Book fed Kniffin for a goal, then Finlay Collins set Kniffen up for a tally, putting Darien ahead, 3-2, five minutes into the second quarter. The Blue Wave began gaining a possession-edge in the second quarter.
"Pugliese's faceoff percentage was high, he was winning a lot of faceoffs," Brameier said. "He really helped us avoid having them get a chance to get a run going. That was the key part -- controlling the tempo of the game."
Darien 9, Ridgefield 5
RIDGEFIELD 2 2 1 0--5
DARIEN 1 5 2 1--9
Scoring: R--Ryan Dunn 2 g, 1 a, Schuyler Blair 2 g, Chris Bova 1 g, Harrison Levesque 1 a; D--Jack Kniffin 3 g, 1 a; Hudson Hamill 2 g, Kevin Lindley 1 g; Ian Burgoyne 1 g, 1 a; Christian Trifone 1 g; Colin Minicus 1 g; Andrew Pugliese 1 a; Jack Book 1 a; Finlay Collins 1 a; Goalies: R--Brendan Winne (13 saves); D--Ryan Cornell (8 saves).