DARIEN — If you spotted Darien’s boys lacrosse team a three-goal lead, the outcome would almost always be decided before the opening draw.
New Canaan did not do so willingly this afternoon, but after falling behind its biggest rival by that margin just over two minutes in, its odds of a third straight win in five days dropped precipitously.
Jamison Moore scored three times and Matthew Minicus, Matt Stein and Connor O’Malley added two goals each to handle most of the offensive responsibilities in Darien’s 15-6 home win.
Tighe Cummiskey, who ended up winning 13 of 21 draw controls, dominated early to set the tone.
“Tighe did a great job getting us that possession every time, setting that little spark after every goal,” said Sam Erickson, part of an outstanding yet underrated defensive unit, who drew the difficult task of trying to contain Chris Canet, the Rams’ explosive middie. “We just like to play that fast pace and open up and kind of shock the other team. That’s what we were going for today, obviously. It helped out a lot.
In five days, following a 14-7 win over Ridgefield, a spot behind as No. 2 in the state poll, the Blue Wave (4-0) sent a loud message that it is currently the keeper of the road to postseason titles.
“New Canaan is used to dominating people in faceoffs — they’ve have some great faceoff guys over the year, (Hayden) Shin is another one — but it was a battle between him and Tighe and I thought Tighe held his own,” Darien coach Jeff Brameier said. “That puts a big plus in our favor. We’re a very explosive offensive team, we have the best goalie in the state so they’re going to have to shoot real well to beat him. I thought that was two of the difference makers.”
Having the best talent doesn’t guarantee anything. Just two years ago the Blue Wave was knocked off in the FCIAC semifinals and the year before was stunned by Ridgefield for the state championship. But right now Darien appears to have more top-caliber players, greater depth and personnel that benefits Brameier when building a gameplan for opponents.
The Rams (3-3), who were coming off two quality wins following a 1-2 start, actually fell behind 4-0 before rallying to get within 5-3 on the second of Thomas Augustine’s two goals, 26 seconds into the second quarter.
“Give New Canaan credit, they made it a game early,” Brameier said. “We didn’t keep the pedal on, not because we weren’t trying but they made some nice plays. They made some nice goals, we took a penalty and gave up a man-up goal. I was happy with the way we responded to that. They were chipping away, making it a two-goal game at one point and we kept answering.”
But Darien built up its lead to 9-4 at the half and shut down New Canaan’s offense. Andy Demopoulos stopped 14 shots for the second straight game, while Erickson helped hold Canet to two goals and an assist.
Darien’s attack and transition game is played at a speed few opponents can replicate. It makes it difficult to prepare for in practice and more so to neutralize in games.
But it tends to overshadow what has consistently been a strong defensive unit, and this year is no different. Demopoulos, like all strong goaltenders, stands out, but Erickson, David Evanchick, Jeremiah Stafford and Oliver Bolton have quickly coalesced into an influential group.
“This is as good a unit of four guys as you can ask for,” Brameier said. “They’re very good one on one and they’re very good at putting pressure on the ball. We’ve had other teams that were good. I think you go back to the 2018 team, very good defense, we were undefeated but we didn’t have takeaway guys like this. We didn’t have the defensive speed like we have. Jeremiah is electric on the field, putting pressure and then creating with ground balls and possession time. And so is Sam. Between Sam, Jeremiah, Ollie and David, those are four outstanding long poles.
“Then we’re using out two midlines balanced, and they’re all athletes. They can play both ways. We get transition and we get fast breaks because they are still on the field.”
Holden Busby played well in goal, with 14 saves for New Canaan, which looks great in stretches but is still trying to sustain consistency.
Meanwhile, after 22 months without a big game, the Blue Wave like the tone it established this week.
“We really like where we are,” Erickson said. “Very happy with the passing game. It showed that we’re back. We still have some progress to make, but Darien is back.”