'Stonewall Massie' leads Darien into Division I championship
Published 9:20 pm, Friday, March 20, 2015
In the second period of Wednesday's Division I hockey semifinals between No. 2 Darien and No. 3 Xavier the Blue Wave's Will Massie made two point-blank, one-on-one saves to preserve a 1-1 tie that led to an eventual 3-1 win for Darien.
At that moment the Darien student section started chanting, "Stonewall Massie."
And for the last month that's exactly what he's been. The senior goaltender shutout Westhill in the final game of the regular season on Feb. 25 and from that game until Saturday, where he will face top seeded Greenwich for the Division I title at 2:30 p.m. at Ingalls Rink, he has allowed an average of just one goal per contest.
"He's been really focused on the task at hand," Darien coach Chris Gerwig said of his net minder. "He's not looking past what shift were at in any period and not getting ahead of himself. He doesn't take things for granted and he knows he has a strong defensive core in front of him."
That defense, led by Nick Tuzinkiewicz and Aidan Loh will have its work cut out for it against the top-seeded Cardinals. In Massie's recent stretch the Cards were the only team to score more than one time against him, but the Darien offense did enough to come away with a 5-3 victory and an FCIAC title.
"Like us, they're very deep," Massie said of the Greeniwch team. "I give a lot of credit to coach Bob Russel, they're ferocious, they get pucks to the net and get rebounds."
One of the things that sets Massie apart from other goaltenders around the state is his size. Standing at 6-foot-3 and around 6-5 on skates Massie isn't the conventional goalie. Xavier coach Dan DeConti called it intimidating after the semifinal game, saying the whole net is invisible behind him.
"There's no doubt he's a very athletic kid," Gerwig said. "He's flexible, he moves well, he can make acrobatic plays and be intimidating at times."
When talking about Massie, his size is the first thing that comes to Russel's mind.
--He is a big, tall goalie and I hope we can test him more this time," the Greenwich coach said. "He is a big guy, who covers a lot of the net even when he is down. Because of his size, it's tough to get shots by him upstairs."
Massie says it was his position coach who helped him utilize his stature to cover the net and give him a unique style of play.
"I'm thankful for my size," Massie said. "But more so to my goalie coach for instilling some great values in my game and mixed with my size it's a different style than most players -- and it's a pretty big factor."
Another benefit to having Massie in net is the improvement it brings to the offensive game of the Blue Wave. Darien is unafraid to take risks moving the puck up ice, knowing that any mistake can by nullified by the man in the net.
"We're aggressive," Gerwig said of his team, which often has defensemen join the fore check, hoping to create odd-man rushes. "Our "D" has been getting involved all year and having Will back there allows us to take chances because he's able to bail us out; it's a luxury to have a wall back there."
Going into the Saturday's final a hot Massie and veteran coach both preached one message on how to deal with the Cardinals' potent attack.
"Protect the house at all costs."