DARIEN — Arguably no state hockey team’s record was less revealing of its talent level than Greenwich’s. The Cardinals came into tonight’s game with Darien at 2-4. Two of the losses were in overtime and none was by more than two goals.
“We’ve been getting a hard rap because our record doesn’t indicate how well we’ve been playing,” Greenwich coach Chris Rurak said.
If the Cardinals make the type of second-half run they are expecting, tonight might be looked back on as a turning point. They overcame a 2-0 deficit to force overtime and came away with a 3-2 win on Ivan Kovalev’s goal.
“We’ve been playing very good hockey, we just haven’t had much puck luck and now it’s starting to come our way,” Rurak said.
This was the teams’ second meeting in 16 days. The Blue Wave won the annual Winter Classic, 5-3.
“We took a big loss there,” Kovalev said. “This was also a big win to lead us forward in the season because we had a tough start. We’re heading in the right direction and we hope to keep going that way.”
Chris Cataldo scored late in the second period on a two-man advantage and Ryan Columbo tied the game early in the third for Greenwich, while Ben Nash was sensational in goal, with 40 saves.
Kovalev provided the heroics with 5:01 left in overtime.
“There was a shot on net and I just saw a rebound and I picked it up, took it backhanded and it hit the crossbar and went in,” Kovalev said. “I couldn’t believe it.”
Darien (4-1) was coming off a win Saturday against Notre Dame-West Haven, which was the No. 1 team in the state. The lone loss came against Hamden.
The Blue Wave took a 1-0 lead late in the first period when James Conway one-timed a pass from Dan Lowe. Bennett McDermott doubled the lead at 9:37 of the second period, taking a pass from Sam Erickson and scoring as he skated in from the right side.
“When it was 2-1 the message in the locker room was it’s a good feeling because we’re playing to win and they’re playing not to lose,” Rurak said. “I told the boys listen, this us fun, this is what hockey is all about, when we come in there’s going to be two heroes, the guy who gets the next one and the guy who gets the game-winner. It held true.”
Darien coach Mac Budd had to leave immediately after the game and was not available for comment.
When the Cardinals stay out of penalty trouble, Rurak is able to go deep into his bench and use four lines. Even seven games in, he admitted Greenwich is a work in progress.
“I’m still trying to figure out what I have for a team,” Rurak said. “Now they’re managing the game better so I can get more players involved and it’s exceptionally pleasing to see how deep we are. I can play numerous kids in different situations and have them be successful. Going down the stretch it’s looking good for the Cardinals.”