FCIAC final between Greenwich, Darien has potential to be a classic
After falling to Darien 2-0 in the FCIAC semifinals Wednesday, New Canaan coach Pat Gore called the Blue Wave one of the top two boys hockey teams in the state. As he said this Greenwich players trickled out of the locker room to take the ice for their semifinal with St. Joseph. Gore looked up and said, "and there's the other one."
If Gore is right then Saturday's FCIAC championship game between the Cardinals and Blue Wave has all the makings of a classic.
The two teams heading in are so evenly matched that in their only contest against each other this year they tied 3-3. Since that game on Feb. 3 neither team has lost. Darien has gone 10-0 while Greenwich has posted a 6-0-1 mark.
"It was a back and forth game," Greenwich coach Bob Russel said of the first contest between the two teams. "We had a goal in OT that was called back and they had a couple shots hit the post."
Both coaches expect Saturday's contest, set for a 3:30 p.m. faceoff at Stamford's Terry Conners Rink, to be another close one, but Russel and Darien coach Chris Gerwig both touched on the importance of one key element -- penalties.
"We have to limit our mistakes and get a penalty here and there" Russel said. "There's an element of luck that comes into these things and the more chances you get, the luckier you're going to be."
More InformationFCIAC Championship Quick Facts
Teams tied 3-3 in first matchup Feb. 3
Neither has lost since (Darien, 10-0) (Greenwich 6-0-1)
Darien goalie Will Massie is coming off consecutive shutouts
Greenwich is averaging over 5 goals a game through its last three
To contrast, Gerwig, whose team took four penalties against New Canaan Wednesday, feels the Blue Wave need to maintain a level of aggressiveness, but not to the point where Greenwich can utilize the man advantage.
"We have to stay disciplined," Gerwig said. "(Greenwich) had two power play goals against in that tie. We need to finish our checks, but they are a good skating, senior-laden team with experience and they'll make you pay."
Perhaps the focal point of the matchup is Darien goalie Will Massie, who recorded his second straight shutout in Wednesday's semifinal win. As long as the Blue Wave can stay out of the penalty box, Gerwig has the upmost confidence in his stopper.
"He's been lights out," Gerwig said of the goalie. "Notre Dame-Fairfield fired 38 shots on him, and they can score with anyone, and he only gave up one. When we're playing five-on-five he's seeing the puck real well and doing some real nice things; we know defense wins championships and our defense is playing well right now."
Greenwich, which exploded for four goals in the third period against St. Joe to turn a 1-1 into a 5-1 rout, needs to continue the momentum if it wants to beat Massie and Darien. For Russel that starts with keeping things simple, the way the Cardinals have all season.
"It's the same stuff we do all year," Russel said. "You have to come out of your end clean, which starts with the first pass on the way out, and get it deep in their zone. If you turn it over good transition teams like Darien will take advantage."