Darien girls skate to first win
BRIDGEPORT -- It's early, but what a statement to make.
Monday night, the Blue Wave girls hockey team took what it hopes is its first significant step in overcoming a team-dynamic-changing offseason. The Blue Wave got its first win, in its second game of the winter, blanking the Fairfield co-op team 7-0 at Wonderland of Ice.
After sustaining some significant offseason losses -- in addition to four graduates leaving skates to fill, another six players didn't return to the ice this winter -- the Blue Wave had its first season loss in a 3-2 nail-biter to Wilton on Dec. 8.
The Wave players and coaching staff were thrilled to get that first win under their belts in game two, as they move on with a somewhat new-look lineup.
Sarah Shaker led the way with four goals as the Wave dominated a fairly young and inexperienced Fairfield Ludlowe/Fairfield Warde co-op team.
"Wilton was a tough loss because we played really well, so it was really good to win today," said Shaker, whose team out-shot Wilton 26-9 despite the setback. "We were getting open well, and passing.
The team wanted something definitive against an inferior opponent. There was no room for doubt in this game.
"It was the best way," Ellie Bullitt said of the bounce-back effort, "because it was a pretty hearty win. I think we were really aggressive and we communicated a lot, and we didn't rely on one individual."
Darien head coach Al Gurney was pleased with the overall effort in both games and happy his team had something to show for its efforts in the second contest of the young campaign. Gurney said the biggest strength of his team is the defense, led by blue-liners Lily Christensen, Bullitt and Lauren Perkins.
"They get the puck up the ice -- they get back quick," Gurney said.
Among the new faces to the lineup this winter is the starting goaltender, freshman Shannon Hall, who was given plenty of support by the defense in front of her, but also did her part with a handful of timely saves to preserve the shutout against Fairfield.
"She's working hard and getting better every game," Gurney said of his netminder.
The Blue Wave, which finished runner-up in the FCIAC and state tournaments last year, a season after winning both titles, ended up with 10 players to replace and have managed to maintain a high level of play to begin this campaign.
"We've generated a lot of shots on goal and we have good defense," said Gurney, whose team has held the opposition to 10 shots in two games, while compiling close to 70. "We have a lot of young players -- a lot of new players. The younger players seem quick to learn/ Our freshmen are stepping right up. If we had the rest of the players we'd have tremendous depth, tremendous speed."
The team isn't pretending to get past these hurdles just yet. It will take a bit more practice and game time before everyone's fully adjusted.
"It's pretty upsetting, especially since two of them were a huge part of the team emotionally," added Bullitt, referring to the team's leading scorer, Lexi Perticone, and one of the top defenders, Galen Rohn. "The chemistry's totally different, but we're really filling in the gaps and having fun."
Among the key returnees are senior captain Emma Tuzinkiewicz, and juniors Shaker and Emily Tropsa, who form a tough-to-stop first line.
"They can hang with anybody," Gurney said. "They have good skills ... they're quick."
The Wave, following a Dec. 16 clash with Trumbull, will get perhaps their toughest test of the season, in a Dec. 20 home game against the team that dethroned it of both championships a year ago: New Canaan.
Darien is striving to get back to the FCIAC and state playoffs, Gurney said.
"If we play tough and make as few mistakes as we can and we should be fine," he said.
It's a long season, and win or lose against New Canaan in the first meeting, the Wave will have a chance to develop and improve during the course of seven games and a month's worth of practice before a rematch with the Rams on Jan. 21.