Darien wins third straight to close out regular season
If there were any questions about their killer instinct, the members of the Darien boys' hockey team answered them emphatically against Trinity Catholic at home on Monday night. The Blue Wave were relentless, playing hard, fast, and physical on their way to a 5-0 rout of the Crusaders in their final game of the regular season. Darien enters the FCIAC playoffs riding the crest of a three-game winning streak.
"I'm happy with the way we played, we moved the puck really, really well," Darien coach Larry Vieria said. "Hopefully, we can go on a run in the playoffs like we did last year,"
Facing a far less talented team than themselves, Darien (10-9-1) played as if Monday night's contest was an elimination game, attacking Trinity Catholic (4-15) from the drop of the puck. With 6:24 to go in the first period, Brendan Hathaway fired a shot from the point that handcuffed Trinity Catholic goalie Brad Romano. The puck squirted out in front, and Grayson Moran, who outworked everybody in traffic, slammed it home, giving Darien a 1-0 lead.
"Getting that first goal is crucial," Moran said. "The momentum feeds everyone on the team."
Darien turned up the intensity in the second period and thoroughly dominated the Crusaders. At 2:10 of the period, George Gregory was behind the net and made a beautiful pinpoint pass to Nick Bruno out in front. Bruno drilled it past Romano for a 2-0 Darien lead.
"I gave it to George, George gave it right back," Bruno said. "It was a give-and-go. We always work on that in practice, so we knew what we were doing."
Darien's passing was crisp and accurate all night. Just over three and a half minutes later, Cam Murray waited for Rich Gregory to clear down low before delivering a pass that drew the Crusaders to Gregory. Gregory then spotted forward Garren Fritts all alone in front of the net, who flipped it home, putting the Blue Wave up 3-0.
With 8:16 left in the period, goalie Max Rothston and Darien got a bit of a scare. Rothston took a shot in the chest that appeared to nail the junior goalie in a place where the padding didn't protect him. Rothston was down on the ice for a few seconds, before catching his breath.
"Max is all right. He took a nice shot to the chest," coach Vieria said. "He's a tough goalie, he'll be fine."
With their star goaltender back on his feet, Darien refused to take its foot off the gas pedal. They went up 4-0 on a great individual effort by Doug Miller. The senior defenseman was backing up as he took a cross-ice pass from Trent Bergin. Slightly off-balance, Miller unleashed a slapshot that hugged the ice past the outstretched skate of Romano, and into the corner of the net.
"I was just trying to get a shot off," Miller said. "I had to shoot it across my body and somehow it went in."
The Blue Wave kept attacking the zone and putting more pressure on Romano. With 1:38 to go in the period, George Gregory outworked a number of Crusader defenders in front of the net and poked a pass to Bruno, who did the rest. Darien led 5-0 after two periods.
"That was all George Gregory," Bruno said. "He kept working and working, and he got it to me and I just put the puck in."
Rothston, who has been a workhorse in goal for Darien this season, got a breather in the third period. Hunt Bartram and Michael Collins finished out the game, turning in some nice work to help preserve the shutout, Darien's second in the last three games.
"It was combined effort by those three goalies," coach Vieria said. "I was happy for Bartram and Collins. They've worked hard all year and they should be rewarded."
Darien has made it to the FCIAC playoffs, though their opponent was not determined at press time. The FCIAC quarterfinal games will be played tonight and Saturday.