DARIEN — The locker room was so quiet that if not for the occasional sound of closing metal it was hard to tell whether it was inhabited at all.
It was where the members of the Darien boys lacrosse team sought refuge following today’s 9-8 overtime loss to Brunswick. Darien jumped out to a 4-0 lead and went ahead, 7-3, after scoring a pair of goals two minutes into the second half.
“The lead gave us good confidence and the outcome is crazy,” said Darien goaltender Andy Demopoulos, who played one of the best games of his career.”
Brunswick, ranked No. 3 in the country in the most recent Under Armour poll, rallied to score six of the last seven goals after suffering its first defeat on Wednesday to Lawrenceville. The Bruins won the draw at the start of overtime and Coulter Mackesy got the ball on the right side. Mackesey thought for a second about passing, before making a run toward goal, getting a step past Blue Wave defender Sam Erickson and after crossing in front of the cage putting a shot past goaltender Andy Demopoulos’ short side.
“It was a one de one,” said Demopoulos, who made 22 often acrobatic saves. “It was speed. Something coach (Jeff) Brameier said, we need more depth at all positions and that’s what we’re working on. Something I think we’ll get. I think we were a little tired going into the fourth, they got some momentum and they slipped one by me bottom left. That was it.”
It was the first loss in six games for the Blue Wave. On the one hand, it was the least consequential outcome of the spring in terms of the run for league and state titles. But with no interstate competition this spring because of the COVID pandemic, it was the one time Darien had to prove itself on a national platform.
The Blue Wave certainly did that. A few weeks ago a veteran follower of FCIAC lacrosse who knows Darien’s personnel well said he did not think it would have a chance against the Bruins (8-1). Someone suggested afterward that this was a moral victory for the Blue Wave, but moral victories are something that belongs to its opponents. There isn’t a team in the country Darien ever expects not to beat, and today was no different.
If anything, this was a reaffirmation of Darien’s start, which includes most recently wins over three of the teams that figure to give it the greatest difficulty for both league and state titles.
Still, after explosive starts to begin the game and second half…
“It’s a tough loss,” Brameier said. “A lead against a team like them and a team like us, it’s never a lead. Particularly when you’ve got speed and athleticism and a really good faceoff guy. Both teams have the capability of making that kind of run. We did some things today great, obviously, had our opportunities, but lets face it in the fourth quarter they came up and made big plays and I think we gave the ball away too much on our end.”
Darien was held to a single goal over the final 21 minutes and 58 seconds. There were too many turnovers and too many shots at goaltender Luke Schlank. Accuracy was an issue Brameier noted following the Blue Wave’s 10-7 win Thursday over Staples.
“We need to shoot better,” Brameier said. “Defense can cause that. They didn’t shoot very well. We certainly had our opportunities and we forced it too many times. To be ahead of them and have it 8-8, that’s the problem with overtime, if you don’t get the ball you don’t get a chance. We didn’t get a chance in overtime.”
The Blue Wave erupted to start the game, scoring goals 47 seconds and then 25 seconds apart, two by Jamison Moore, for the quick lead.
The Bruins scored three times in 52 seconds late in the quarter, and the first of freshman Brady Pokorny’s four goals in a defensive-minded second quarter made the score 5-3 at the half.
Pokorny and Matthew Minicus struck 67 seconds apart to start the third quarter and get Darien back ahead by four goals, but the Bruins again chipped away, tying the game at 7-7 on Leo Hoffman’s goal with 8:08 left.
Pokorny’s final goal gave the Blue Wave an 8-7 lead but long pole Will Donovan scored the last goal of regulation, with 5:08 left, to even the score for the last time.
“They have speed all over the place and you saw what really brought them back was their defense to offense,” Brameier said. “They scored goals with their long poles coming down, their faceoff guys coming down and their de middies coming down. I think they could sense they were blowing by us.”
Given the Blue Wave’s unforced errors, it might not have come down to overtime if not for Demopoulos, whose legend grows seemingly with each game.
“He’s a great position goalie with good mechanics and like any other good goalie, when you get comfortable and the team is playing good in front of you they start to shoot and they were not as accurate as they usually are,” Brameier said. “They’ve got guys that can really sting it.”
The two possible league contenders Darien has yet to see, Greenwich and Wilton, are on deck this week. The Cardinals have their full roster back and defeated Ridgefield today, 15-13.
There was a lot of glass-half-empty today because there are no consolation prizes for Darien. But there was one big glass-half-full: IF it plays up to capabilities, it is hard right now to see which team is going to deny the Blue Wave from league and state titles, and ending the season in a pile.
“Maybe we lost in OT but we played our hearts out and we just have to keep our heads up,” Demopoulos said. “I think this game definitely showed we can beat anyone in the FCIAC. Especially competing on a national level. If we can compete on a national level we can compete in the FCIAC.”