My Point

Draw Rouses Similar Emotions After Darien Rallies To Tie New Canaan

Darien boys hockey coach Mac Budd had a slip of the tongue last night when discussing the philosophy of how there are different degrees of tie games.

“Normally you wouldn’t look at a tie and necessarily be happy with it, but to beat a great team like New Canaan, one of the top three teams in the state, it was great to tie it up and play some good hockey.”

Indeed, Budd walked away from the Blue Wave’s 4-4 draw against rival New Canaan last night feeling like he had won, not just earned one of the most treasured points of his career. Darien was down 4-1, without three key players and staring at the possibility of a 1-3 start.

Darien’s Matthew Stein carries the puck out of the defensive zone. (Matt Dewkett)

And if Darien had not managed to keep a puck in the zone that was inches from clearing the blue line, Matthew Stein doesn’t score the tying goal with 51 seconds left in regulation and Budd’s demeanor is noticeably different.

After Sam Erickson, who had a sensational game, with two goals and an assist, scored on a rebound six minutes into the game to give the Blue Wave (1-2-1) the lead, Jack Johnson answered with a high wrist shot 25 seconds later and Sam Ives followed 12 seconds after that to give the Rams (2-1-1) a 2-1 lead.

Boden Gammill’s goal on a deflection with five seconds left in the period put New Canaan up 3-1. After Carter Spain scored 96 seconds into the second period the Rams had a 4-1 lead.

But two days after relinquishing a two-goal lead to lose in overtime to Notre Dame-West Haven, the Blue Wave rallied, with Ericson’s second goal and another by Patrick Thurlow. It did so without Jamison Moore, Teddy Dyer and Jack Johnston, three of the team’s leaders. Moore has been injured and Budd would only say that Dyer and Johnston will be back for the next game.

New Canaan’s Beau Johnson makes a save late in the third period. (Matt Dewkett)

“The obvious thing is we’re missing a couple of guys who we expect back next game and coming off a couple of tough losses, especially the loss to Notre Dame-West Haven, and then playing a real lackluster first period tonight,” Budd said. “I give the guys a lot of credit. It would have been easy at that point to roll over and pack it in. It certainly wasn’t looking good. They really played fantastic hockey in the second and the third. What I’m really proud of is the compete level and effort level of the entire team tonight.”

If Budd was the tie winner, that must mean that New Canaan coach Clark Jones was the tie loser, and he rightfully wasn’t feeling that way. Three-goal leads early in games are the equal of late three-goal spurts.

“We talked after the game and I think he was upset with the first half and I was disappointed with the second half, but at the end of the day these kids competed really hard,” Jones said, referring to Budd.”

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Jones said the reasons the Rams lost the lead are easily correctable.

“For us it’s about positioning,” Jones said. “Not how much they are willing to win. I told them they gave me everything. We seem to be scoring in bunches this year. When we put it in the net we follow up with more goals.”

Darien’s Patrick Thurlow carries the puck into the offensive zone. (Matt Dewkett)

Teams are still adjusting after two weeks to the changes brought on by the pandemic, and Jones said little things like sharing a locker room has had an adverse effect.

Jones in fact offered the most interesting take I have heard from a coach since the school year started.

“Going into a game you like to think you know what is going to happen, but I think this year coaches have less to do with the outcome than ever before,” Jones said. “It’s not a bad thing. It ultimately comes down to kids and how they take ownership.”

The FCIAC’s decision for intradivison play between Division I schools has been a boon for the hockey community. Darien has started with Greenwich, Fairfield Prep and Notre Dame-West Haven. The Rams have played the latter two schools. Both will now settle into conference play.

“This is going to be a different year,” Budd said. “Based on the scheduling change there’s not going to be any nights off. If you don’t bring your A game each night you’re probably not going to win, and what we’ve seen thus far is exactly that.”