DARIEN -- There are few storylines that trump an undefeated team gaining significant steam on its way to fighting for a championship.
But a 31-year coach earning his 500th career victory while leading his unbeaten squad is most certainly one of them.
Darien boys lacrosse coach Jeff Brameier notched career win No. 500 Friday following a 12-2 Blue Wave blowout of Brien McMahon in the FCIAC quarterfinals. Darien improved to 17-0 on the season, as it now heads to Tuesday's conference semifinals against arch-rival New Canaan. The Senators (10-7) were shutout for three quarters and dropped their sixth straight.
While Brameier insisted on directing any outside focus to his team and its playoff run, he admitted 500 wins is something he never dreamed of.
"I didn't think I'd be around this long," Brameier said. "But I found a sport I love, a town that's passionate about it, and it's a great opportunity to be involved in a great sport and watch it grow."
Blue Wave senior Peter Lindley put his team ahead early, netting three goals prior to halftime and four before day's end. Sophomore Jack Kniffin followed with three scores and an assist, including the game's opening goal less than a minute in. The young attack tapped in a high ricochet off a rocket by Ian Burgoyne to best McMahon goalie Josh Miller, who finished with 18 saves.
Miller stood tall for the remainder of the frame, limiting Darien to two additional scores despite a bevy of offensive chances. On the opposite end, the Senators never maintained possession long enough to create many opportunities of their own, recording only two shots in the first half.
"We would make stops and then we were able to get the ball, but we'd throw it away," McMahon coach Andy Stockfisch said. "It was just something we didn't need to do against a team that takes any opportunity as soon as you give them and usually buries it."
In the final moments leading to intermission, Lindley furnished his hat trick, pushing Darien's edge to 6-0 with help from Colin Minicus. Unsatisfied by a six-goal lead Minicus fired one more through with 10 seconds to go on a beautiful Kniffin pass over the top of the cage.
Later, Kniffin extended the Wave lead to its largest of the day at 11-0 in the late third quarter, while falling to the turf on a difficult shot in traffic. Back-up goalie Phil Rech then led a mass of Darien substitutions on the field to open the final frame, where the Senators' scored their only goals thanks to James Campbell and Chris Gatt.
Moving forward, the stakes will only grow for unbeaten Darien, which awaits a rematch of its 11-10 overtime win against the Rams earlier this month. Should the Blue Wave advance to the finals, the squad could very well face another go-round with No. 3 Ridgefield, which also fell to Darien by one goal one week ago.
Nevertheless, Brameier asserts his team is ready for any and every challenge that lies ahead.
"There's no question there's a lot of pressure on us. The bullseye's on our chest," Brameier said. "But it's something you want to keep striving for. And the kids keep playing hard, working together and doing good things."
Darien 12, Brien McMahon 2
McMAHON 0 0 0 2--2
DARIEN 3 4 4 1--12
Records: Brien McMahon 10-7, 7-7 FCIAC, Darien 17-0, 13-0 FCIAC. Scoring: M-- James Campbell 1 goal, 1 assist, Chris Gatt 1g; D-- Peter Lindley 4 goals, Jack Kniffin 3g, 1 assist, Colin Minicus 2g, 1a, Ian Burgoyne 2a, Harry Gillespie 2a, John Reed 1g, Christian Trifone 1g, Hudson Hamill 1g, Kyle Cornell 1a. Goalies: M--Josh Miller (18 saves); D--Phil Huffard (2), Phil Rech (3). Shots: M--6; D--42.