DARIEN — There have been more important wins during a streak that reached 29 games on Thursday afternoon, but perhaps none produced by such a dramatic turnaround and with the possibility for long-term benefits than the Darien boys lacrosse team’s dramatic 10-9 come-from-behind win over Ridgefield.
The Blue Wave’s spectacular run, achieved against A-plus-level competition, was endangered following Schuyler Blair’s fifth goal, with 1:55 left in the third quarter, that put the Tigers ahead, 8-4.
“I think most teams are going to say they are never out of a game,” said Darien’s Ian Burgoyne.
The Blue Wave (6-0, 4-0 FCIAC), who would go on to score six straight times, were really not out of it before the quarter had even ended. Burgoyne and Hudson Hamill scored eight seconds apart. Jack Book and Hamill started the final quarter with goals to tie the game, giving Darien four in a span of 2:12.
Colin Minicus’ goal on a run from behind the net gave Darien its first lead, and Burgoyne’s second score, with 4:43 left, made it 10-8.
And then things really got crazy.
“We know going into playing Ridgefield it’s going to be a great game. They came out here, had a short warmup and really took it to us,” said Burgoyne, referring to the Tigers’ bus arriving late. “We really hadn’t found ourselves down by three goals during this win streak.”
Burgoyne was referring to the Tigers’ 6-3 halftime lead, achieved by scoring three straight goals during the first six minutes.
Ridgefield, a talented team that for the past year has found itself locked out of the championship game club by the Blue Wave, Greenwich and New Canaan, opened with furious intensity.
This Darien win streak has bridged two different teams: last year’s, which had arguably the best season ever by an FCIAC lacrosse team, if not any FCIAC team, period. And this year’s, which is a mix of young and new and was faced with its first dose of adversity.
“Our offense is pretty good,” Darien coach Jeff Brameier said. “We just didn’t have possession in the first half. I think that was part of it. We did not win the battle of the groundballs. We’re an aggressive offense and we weren’t very patient.”
The game, from a Darien perspective, mirrored the weather, which went from hailstorm, to sunny skies, to rain.
Simon Mathias’ fourth goal cut the Ridgefield deficit to one with 2:50 left.
The scoring was done, but not the theatrics. Ridgefield sustained a penalty and appeared as if it would play a man short, but Ridgefield coach Roy Colsey asked the officials to measure Burgoyne’s stick.
It was deemed illegal and the teams played 5 on 5.
Then Blair got an uncontested shot that was saved beautifully by goaltender Ryan Cornell, one of several members of a terrific sophomore class — Riley Stewart had a team-high three goals — Brameier is getting strong play from, to preserve the win.
“I saw he dropped his hands so I knew he was going to go high,” Cornell said of the play. “I watched it all the way in and it went stick-side high. I caught my breath and successfully cleared the ball. It was a great feeling. Not that you won the game but helped your team out in a big way.”
It was a crushing loss for Ridgefield (4-2, 3-2), which two days earlier fell to Greenwich, which scored the game’s final three goals, 14-13.
“At the end of the game it’s 5 on 5, you have a one-goal lead, you have to make plays,” Brameier said. “Someone has to make plays.”
Darien made enough of them in the end to see its streak live on.
“It’s a great team win,” Cornell said. “It’s the first time this year we’ve been down at the half. No margin is too big for us. The offense fought their way back and we were able to recover. Ever since last year it has been a team effort. Last year’s season is carrying over into this one and we are rallying around that.”
NOTES: Colin Minicus and Hamill each had two goals and an assist for Darien. Faceoff specialist Andrew Pugliese was again the unsung hero, winning 11 of 16, especially in the second half.