The Darien High School boys hockey team can scratch a 45-year itch Saturday afternoon, while putting the end to some other droughts when it faces Fairfield Prep for the Division I state title at Ingalls Rink.
The Blue Wave’s only championship came in 1969. There have been four other trips to the final, the most recent in 1987.
A Darien win would give the FCIAC its first Division I state champion since Trinity Catholic, under the legendary Mickey Lione, won in 1998.
“This is like David vs. Goliath,” Darien coach Chris Gerwig said. “I don’t know how many state championships they’ve won. That’s why we put together one of the toughest schedules ever for Darien, so we would be prepared for this situation.”
The third-seeded Jesuits have won eight state titles since 2000 and are 15-3 overall in championship games.
The teams have met twice this season, with No. 4 Darien (22-3-1) winning a pair of one-goal decisions.
“As a coach you always think about having beaten them twice,” Gerwig said. “In this case it gets thrown out because of the magnitude of the game. We’ve played a lot of big games and won a lot of big games.”
The Blue Wave rolled through the regular season, with a loss to Notre Dame-Fairfield on the final day their only defeat since the opening game against Hamden.
But Darien was stunned by New Canaan in the FCIAC championship game.
“No doubt, my guys were very disappointed by that loss,” Gerwig said. “No disrespect to New Canaan, because that’s what that rivalry is all about. Emotions get high and they got the best of us that night. But give New Canaan credit, they played a great game. We felt like they took something away from us.”
Gerwig said the Blue Wave have since turned the negative into a positive.
“Getting refocused helped,” he said. “One of our goals was to get back to Yale. We have to do the next step now and finish off the job.”
Darien has been impressive in the state tournament, particularly on defense. It has allowed just two goals in three wins, including a 3-1 victory over Notre-Dame of Fairfield at Yale in the semifinals.
Tommy Watters, who has scored as many big goals as anyone in the state this winter, had two in the semifinals. He has 20 goals and 20 assists this season. Mike Colon has been outstanding in goal, with a sturdy defense in front of him.
The Jesuits have scored 13 goals in their three state tournament wins, which included a 4-3 overtime decision over Notre Dame-West Haven in the semifinals.
“It’s going to be tough,” Gerwig said. “We are going to have to play our A game. We are going to have to be tight on defense.”
Gerwig said he was particularly concerned about Prep’s Matt Wikman, who scored the deciding goal in the semifinals.
“He’s very dangerous,” Gerwig said. “Their first line is as good as any in the state. We can’t change getting out of our realm.”
While the task is formidable, Gerwig said the past three months have been constructed to get to and succeed in the final.
“You know Fairfield Prep is going to be hungry,” he said. “And it is tough to beat a team three times. I think this team was built for this situation. Now we have the opportunity to finish off the job.”