Darien advances to FCIAC finals
Forget about throwing out the records, when Darien and Wilton met in the girl's hockey FCIAC semifinals on Wednesday night, they could have put the scouting reports in the trash. The teams knew each other cold, having already played each other three times this year, with their most recent game played on Monday night. The Blue Wave won that regular-season finale in a hard-fought, 3-2 battle.
With the stakes raised on Wednesday night, Darien made it seem like deja vu all over again, beating the Warriors with the same gritty effort, and by the same 3-2 final.
"I couldn't be happier. We matched one of our goals, and that was getting to the FCIAC finals," Darien coach Al Gurney said. "We played a fantastic game all the way around. I'm very proud of them."
Beating a team twice in three days is no easy task, but Darien came out strong, unleashing their fury on Wilton goalie Emily Tucker. They peppered her with 24 shots from all points on the ice. The Blue Wave broke open the scoring at 9:30 of the period when Sara Shaker beat Tucker with a wicked wrist shot, giving Darien a 1-0 lead.
Shaker wasn't finished. With 1:46 to go before intermission, the junior forward picked up a rebound near the left side of the net, and while skating away from traffic, she fired a bullet past Tucker, making it 2-0 Blue Wave.
"Sara has acquired a knack for scoring that she didn't have at the beginning of the season," Gurney said. "She's found who Sara should be, and she's been great."
Darien took a 2-0 lead into the second period, but that was cut in half at the 1:36 mark. Wilton freshman Emilie Arrix picked up the puck, which had caromed off the boards behind the net, and flipped it past goalie Shannon Hall, making it a one-goal game after two periods.
After failing to connect on 17 shots in the second period, the Blue Wave kept the pressure on Wilton in the third. At the 4:43 mark, Lily Christensen fired a strong shot from just inside the blue line that slowly trickled past Tucker, increasing Darien's lead to 3-1.
"I was just trying to get my shot to the net. I was surprised it went in, but I'm very happy it did," Christensen said. "It was relief because it gave us some room and we needed that."
Darien also needed a strong performance in the face of pressure, and they got that from their freshman goalie. Hall made several big saves in the biggest test of her young career. She did allow a goal with 50 seconds left, but she was clutch when it counted.
"I was really nervous. This is the first year I've ever played goalie," said Hall, who stopped 14 of 16 shots. "I made some saves early which made me relax and helped me get through this game."
Christensen added, "Shannon played awesome. She had big shoes to fill after Kathy McCumber graduated. Shannon has improved so much."
Darien dominated the game, outshooting Wilton by a whopping 60-16 margin. Having won four games in a row, the team appears to be peaking at the right time, and will be taking on New Canaan in the FCIAC finals on Saturday at 6:30 at the Terry Conners Ice Rink in Stamford.