GREENWICH — Exactly four weeks ago, Beau Johnson, the freshman goaltender for New Canaan’s boys hockey team, did not leave the ice for the entirety of a 10-2 loss to Darien.
It was the hockey version of a rookie pitcher staying on the mound though unable to get an out. Against his team’s biggest rival.
What a different a month makes.
The Rams haven’t lost since and Johnson was outstanding in goal during today’s FCIAC championship against the Blue Wave. New Canaan got an early lead, weathered a late rally and Johnson was outstanding, stopping 34 shots in an MVP-winning performance, leading to a 4-3 victory over Darien.
The Rams won their first league title in six years.
“That was tough but I’m glad it happened because there was so much motivation to win today,” Johnson said after turning his mental cloud drive back 28 days. “The eight-goal loss was tough but they’re not that much better than us. I think we’re better than them, we knew we were and we knew if we played well we could do it. We went over a few of their tendencies on offense and on defense so we could combat them and get the win.”
New Canaan (19-2-1), the top seed, went ahead just 43 seconds in on Justin Wietfeldt’s goal and jumped out to a 3-0 lead. Griffin Deane scored a pair of shorthanded goals. And when the Blue Wave scored for the first time, in the second period, New Canaan countered 82 seconds later.
“We played very simple,” Rams coach Clark Jones said. “Simple outs and simple entries and we finished a lot of plays. We played physical. Two shorthanded goals is a major part of that game. And the second one was right after they scored. Those are huge momentum changers.”
And then there was Johnson, the rubber-band man since the way he rebounded from the low point of his season. The Rams have allowed 15 goals during their eight-game winning streak.
“He’s been really sharp since that Darien game, which tells a lot about him a as a freshman goaltender,” Jones said. “Beau was outstanding for us. When we had breakdowns — and we had a few, especially in the second period — Beau was there time and time again.”
Jones said the freshener inhabited the entire locker room.
“Their mentality changed after that game,” Jones said. “They realized now what it takes to win. Darien is an unbelievable team. And they are finding ways to win now. It got a little scary at the end there but the kids did everything they needed to to get the win.”
The third-seeded Blue Wave (18-5) did not go quietly. Jack Massey and Sam Erickson scored 56 seconds apart to cut the deficit to a goal, but the New Canaan defense did not break.
“Yeah, it’s disappointing,” Darien coach Mac Budd said.” What I’m really proud of is, look, with four or five minutes to go in the game it would have been easy for our guys to collapse and say hey, it wasn’t our day and we’re going to lose this game. I’m really proud of the way they battled back. Certainly that is something positive to take into the state tournament.”
Nick Megdanis put New Canaan up 2-0 midway through the second period and Deane sandwiched his scores around a goal by Darien’s Luke Johnston.
“We had to bounce back heavily from the first time,” Deane said. “We changed some lines up, we knew that we wanted to come back harder than ever and that’s what happened today.”
Budd said a strong finished could not offset the Blue Wave’s quick deficit.
“They came out strong and I thought that was the key to the game,” Budd said.” In the first period we were on our heels, they got the best of the play and we dug ourselves a hole that was just a little too much to get out. And their goaltender was the best player on the ice tonight.”
And that goaltender said when he is reminded of playing Darien as a freshman, tonight moved to the forefront.
“I will always remember this game,” Johnson said. “This game was awesome.”