On Saturday, Darien defeated Hamden 3-2 in overtime.

It was a rematch of last year’s state finals—which Darien also won in OT. In this game however, it was Kate Bellissimo that scored all three Wave goals. Bellissimo, a freshman, was still in middle school when the teams played each other for Darien’s second-straight state crown last season.

With the regular season concluding this week, and FCIACs on the horizon, Darien once again looks like it could be the team to beat in Connecticut girls hockey.

The Blue Wave have earned that as back-to-back defending state champs. But that reputation as the front-runner may not even make it through FCIACs.

Last year’s conference champion Greenwich just defeated New Canaan to grab the No. 1 seed in the FCIAC tournament.

The Rams will be at No. 2 and Darien at three.

Those three southwestern Connecticut teams are always competitive, and reside at the top of the standings year after year.

But this year is different. The talent and infusion of youth on all three squads has made each as deep and dangerous as they have been in recent memory—and it’s all happening at the same time.

Just look at their records on the season; Greenwich at 15-2-1, 11-1-1 in the FCIAC; New Canaan at 16-3, 11-2; Darien at 14-2-1, 9-2-1.

All have been dominant, but none unblemished.

Why? Because they all play each other twice a year.

Darien defeated Greenwich in early January and the two tied on Feb. 5. Meanwhile, the Blue Wave dropped both its regular season meetings with New Canaan. The Rams on the flipside, dropped both contests against Greenwich, most recently 2-1 on Monday with the No. 1 seed at stake.

To say it’s anyone’s tournament isn’t just a cliché, it’s definitive fact. The way the three schools have dominated the rest of the conference, it’s almost a guarantee that it comes down to one of them.

What makes it even more interesting—and, maybe, fun—is that it’s going to come down to one game each time. They’ve all proven they’re capable of beating one another, they all have championship pedigrees, they all are tremendously coached and they all have just the right mix of experienced veterans and uber-talented, confident underclassmen.

Hyperbole aside, this year’s FCIAC tournament can be one of the most even-played and entertaining since its inception. Seriously, if you’re a fan of either school, or ice hockey in general, go watch—they more than deserve the support.

And it’ll really be just the beginning.

With upstate teams like Hamden and the Suffield and Amity co-ops waiting in the state tournament, nothing will come easy for the girls in 2018.

And that’s a good thing.

aparelli@bcnnew.com @reportedbytheAP