By Emery Filmer
NEW HAVEN – Hopefully it won’t take another 46 years for Darien High School to win another boys hockey state championship. But that might be about how long it will be before anyone in the town forgets the names Will Massie and Jack Pardue.
Massie turned aside all 22 shots on goal he faced and Pardue scored the only goal of the game as Darien defeated Greenwich, 1-0, Saturday for the school’s first boys hockey state championship since 1969.
“Go ahead and pinch me as hard as you can, I don’t care, I don’t think I’d feel it,” Darien coach Chris Gerwig said after the season ended with a huge Blue Wave celebration on the ice in front of about 3,500 fans at Yale University’s Ingalls Rink.
Massie and Pardue were the biggest heroes but the second-seeded Blue Wave (23-2-1) turned in one of their finest efforts of the season in ending the state title drought. Darien was actually outshot, 22-16, but kept pressure on Greenwich goalie Bryan Archino for 2½ periods and then concentrated on keeping the top-seeded Cardinals (21-3-2) off the scoreboard during the final minutes.
“I thought we had our chances,” Greenwich coach Bob Russel said after Greenwich failed to end its 23-year run without a state crown. “If you had told me that we’d give up one goal and have as many chances as we did, I would’ve liked our chances. We had every opportunity to win this game.”
Massie, the tall, senior goalie, would not be denied. Almost half his saves were spectacular.
“Will was a brick wall back there for us,” Pardue said.
Massie made two terrific glove stops on Greenwich’s Kristian Cunningham, one in the final seconds of the second period and then midway through the third, and stopped Brian Silard on a breakaway in the first period.
“When there is more at stake, Will brings his A game,” Gerwig said. “He has just gotten better and better and better.”
For Massie, ending the 46-year drought was satisfying to say the least. But like many of the other Blue Wave players, Saturday wasn’t so much about 1969 as it was about 2014.
“We got so close last year,” Massie said, referring to the painful 3-2 overtime loss to Fairfield Prep in the final. “So this was something that we really wanted. It’s all a bit surreal right now. Just a great feeling.”
“Last year was so depressing,” Pardue added. “We had to get back here and win it this time.”
It was quite an ending for the Blue Wave. Two weeks earlier they beat Greenwich, 5-3, to win the Fairfield County Interscholastic Athletic Conference championship. The year before the Blue Wave lost the FCIAC final to rival New Canaan, but they avenged that and then some by winning all three contests with NC this season.
The Blue Wave also defeated Prep during the season to at least get a little feeling of redemption after the loss to it in the state final, and then capped it all off with the long-awaited state championship Saturday.
“This was the final piece of the puzzle,” Gerwig said. “We were on a mission this season. We knew what it felt like being on the other end twice last year and we wanted a different result this time.
Thanks to Massie and Pardue, they got it. The way Archino (15 saves) was playing in goal for Greenwich, it was clear that Massie was going to have to pitch a shutout on this day, if the Blue Wave could just get that one goal. And at the 9:34 mark of the second period, Pardue came through.
The Darien winger got his stick on a loose puck between the two faceoff circles in front of Archino. He had space so he took his time to lock into a wrist shot and aimed high. A second after a loud clank sound ripped through the arena, the referee pointed to the puck that had crossed the goal line.
Darien 1, Greenwich 0.
“I had time and space in the slot and had the puck on my forehand and just ripped it,” Pardue said. “It went off the crossbar, and then bounced in off the goalie’s back. It might have been a lucky bounce but it was the game-winner.”
Darien had other chances but Archino turned them away. It appeared the Blue Wave went ahead 2-0 in the final minute of the second period when Tom Sulger batted in a rebound. But the goal clearly came after the referee’s whistle had blown.
Then Greenwich turned up the pressure in the final five minutes of the game. But Massie frustrated the Cardinals, and even more frustrating was the terrific forechecking job by Darien in the final 90 seconds that kept the Cardinals from pulling Archino for an extra attacker. It wasn’t until a faceoff in Darien’s end with three seconds remaining on the clock that Archino was able to make his way to the bench.
“We wanted to pull him but we just couldn’t get him off,” Russel said.
After Greenwich failed to clearly win the final faceoff, the buzzer sounded and 46 years of angst ended in a sea of blue in and around the Darien goal.
“I didn’t think the goal would hold up but it did and it feels amazing,” Pardue said. “We all were thinking about last year but we had 1969 on our minds, too, and it’s a huge win, not just for us but our town.”
Darien’s run to the title also might mean something to another team in another town.
“Look at what happened to Darien last year,” Russel said. “They lost the FCIAC and state final but then got off their (butt) and worked hard and got both of them this year. Maybe we can do the same thing.”