Darien beats Xavier to advance to Division I championship
NEW HAVEN -- It was just one more rung up the ladder.
That's how Darien coach Chris Gerwig described his team's 3-1 victory over No. 3 Xavier Wednesday night. The win puts No. 2 Darien into the Division I finals against top-seeded Greenwich on Saturday at 2 p.m. at Ingalls Rink in New Haven.
It'll be Darien's second straight finals appearance; the Blue Wave lost in overtime to Fairfield Prep a year ago.
"Every year since I've got here we've got a little closer," Gerwig said. "First it was the quarterfinals, then the semis and last year overtime of the finals. We know what Greenwich can do and we know they'll be ready for us."
After scoring 10 goals in the quarterfinals, Darien's defensive stoppers and goalie Will Massie held the Falcons to just one goal on 27 attempts.
"We know we can play games like this," defenseman Nick Tuzinkiewicz said. "We can score at every line but we can grind and with Massie back there we know we'll get opportunities."
Tied at one in the second Tuzinkiewicz saw his opportunity after reeling in a pass at center ice, `Tuzzy' as his teammates call him powered forward and tried to put one past Xavier goalie Nick Galasso but was denied. From there fellow defenseman Aidan Loh banged one off the goaltender before Riley Mullin finally put it home to give Darien the 2-1 lead.
"I just saw an open lane and I took it," Tuzinkiewicz said. "It's playoff hockey, just put the puck on net and good things will happen, and they did."
Darien's first goal came off the stick of Jack Pardue thanks to a brilliant play by Jake Kirby. The winger skated the puck into the offensive zone and was hammered to the ice by two Xavier defenders. Undeterred Kirby got up and corralled the puck behind the net before getting off a perfect centering feed to Pardue in the slot where he finished to Galasso's stick side. Pardue added the final tally of the game on an empty net with under a minute remaining.
Xavier answered on Troy Earley's strike off a 3-on-2 rush but was unable to get much more going offensively. Despite the loss coach Dan DeConti wants the Falcons to remember what they were able to accomplish on the year.
"It was the best season in program history, without a doubt, "DeConti said. "I hope all my seniors know what they did for this school and remember it forever."
The Darien-Greenwich matchup marks first all public school Division I final since Hamden beat Glastonbury in 2009. Saturday's championship will also be the first all FCIAC Division I final since 1998 when Trinity beat New Canaan 3-1.
Darien 3, Xavier 1
DARIEN 0 2 1--3
XAVIER 0 1 0--1
Records: Darien 20-2-1; Xavier 14-6-3.
Goals: D--Jack Pardue 2, Riley Mullin; X--Troy Earley. Assists: Jake Kirby 2, Aidan Loh; X--John Ford. Goalies: D--Will Massie (26 saves); X--Nick Galasso (22). Shots: D--25; X--27.