STAMFORD -- The first step is always the most important step at playoff time.
The top-seeded Darien High boys ice hockey team took care of business Friday night by rolling to a 5-0 FCIAC quarterfinal victory over Stamford at Terry Conners ice rink.
"The first win is huge," said Brendan Hathaway, Darien's senior captain who recorded a hat trick. "You work all regular season to put it all together in the postseason. This is the time to step up and do it."
Hathaway was a shining example for Darien (17-2-2) as he scored three goals on the evening.
The victory means that Darien will battle No. 4 Ridgefield in Wednesday's semifinals at Terry Conners rink at 7:30 p.m.
Stamford, which saw its season end at 6-14-1, fought Darien to a 2-1 loss last Sunday. But that was a stretch that saw Darien play Ridgefield on Saturday and arch-rival New Canaan on Monday.
Stamford senior goalie Hunter Alderman concluded his prep career in style, registering 36 saves.
Hathaway opened the scoring for the Blue Wave with 6:30 left in the first period, converting a pass from Nicholas Tuzinkiewicz.
Hathaway made it 2-0 with just 15.7 seconds left in the first period, knocking home a rebound. Jack Pardue and Dana Wensberg assisted.
"I got the glory but it was the work of my linemates (Trent Bergin, Pardue) that made it happen," Hathaway said. "We were really moving the puck well."
Darien goalie Michael Collins (14 saves) kept the lead secure as the senior made critical saves early in the second period, including stopping Stamford's Michael Zarrilli on a breakaway.
Bergin pushed the advantage to 3-0, scoring with 6:32 left in the second period.
Hathaway completed his hat trick with 4:18 to go with Pardue and Brendan Cassidy assisting.
"The best thing I saw was we got traffic in front of the net. You have to win battles and score goals in close to win titles," Gerwig said. "We're completely healthy for the first time all season. And our depth will serve us well going forward."
Darien 5, Stamford 0
STAMFORD 0 0 0--0
DARIEN 2 1 2--5
Records: Stamford 6-14-1; Darien 17-2-2
Goals: D -- Brendan Hathaway 3, Trent Bergin, Connor Davis. Assists: D -- .Nicholas Tuzinkiewicz, Jack Pardue 2, Dana Wensberg, Jack Knowlton, Brendan Cassidy. Goalies: S -- Hunter Alderman (36 saves); D -- Michael Collins (14 saves).
Highlights: No. 1 seed Darien meets St. Joseph in Wednesday's semifinals. Probable 7:30 start at Conners Rink.