Massie, defensemen help key Darien's title win over Greenwich
NEW HAVEN -- Scoring against the Darien High School boys hockey team was a difficult task for the opposition during the regular season, but it became even tougher in the postseason.
Including Saturday's exciting 1-0 victory over Greenwich in the CIAC Division I title game at Ingalls Rink, the Blue Wave yielded just six goals in six postseason games. A rock-solid goalie like Will Massie, coupled with an experienced group of defensemen made the Blue Wave extra-stingy during the playoffs.
"A lot of it has to do with experience," said Darien coach Chris Gerwig, whose squad finished the season at 23-2-1. "This is our fourth year in a row here and last year we lost to Fairfield Prep in the state finals, so we have guys who are experienced when it comes to playing in big games like this. They were calm and collected today and I'm proud of them."
Massie was one of the coolest players on the ice while facing pressure. The senior netminder made 22 saves, 17 of which came during the first two periods. He allowed just one goal each to St. Joseph, Ridgefield and Xavier in the first three rounds of the state tournament for the Blue Wave, whose last championship came in 1969.
"I'm at a loss for words, bringing this title back to Darien means so much to us," Massie said. "I had people coming up to be back home, telling me to bring the title home."
Greenwich, which entered the showdown averaging five goals a game for the season, generated its share of scoring opportunities behind a solid forecheck. But Massie and the Blue Wave defensemen were up to the challenge.
Greenwich's best chances occurred during a second period in which it outshot Darien 8-5. Senior forward Brian Silard, who produced another strong effort for the Cards, got loose on a breakaway, skated hard to the net and unleashed a high shot that Massie got his stick on with 12:41 remaining in the second period, keeping it a scoreless game.
"There are so many people in the building and when you get that type of chance your heart kind of stops," said Silard, who skated on the first line along with seniors Matt Lodato and Montana Larson. I came really close to scoring. Massie played a fantastic game. We kept working and working and in the second period, we were getting chances. But he kept getting big saves."
Said Massie: "That breakaway by Silard was a great shot. I fortunately, got my stick on a piece of the puck I think. If I didn't get my stick on it, I think it could have been a whole different game."
Cardinals junior defenseman Colin Kelly put a shot on goal from the left wing that deflected off Massie's pads late in the second period. Lodato and Silard tried to knock the rebound past Massie, who successfully covered up the puck. Massie also made a nifty glove save on junior forward Kristian Cunningham's shot from the left faceoff circle with 15.1 seconds remaining in the second period.
"They put pressure on us, which was alarming at times," Massie said. "But we persevered and got through it."
Said Gerwig: "His (Massie's) presence is intimidating. With skates on, he's maybe 6-foot-5 and he will come out of the net and challenge them to do something. He's very quick and athletic."
"Those guys were really lights out for the stretch run," Gerwig said. "Tuzinkiewicz is our only four-year starter and he's been our rock back there since Day 1."
The Cardinals outshot the Blue Wave 22-16 but generated only five shots in the final period, as Darien focused on protecting their one-goal edge.
"We didn't want to sit back on our heels," Gerwig said. "But we did want to take away the middle of the ice. They have players who can get going and become dangerous, so we had to make sure we knew where they were and try to keep them outside the dots. This is a very special win for the Darien community and our players."