Monday night's hockey game between Darien and New Fairfield/Immaculate was a qualifying round game, a play-in game—even a preliminary round game; call it what you will, the event was a season-ender for the loser and a season-extender for the winner.
Wave Coach Larry Vieira called the game, "choppy, not pretty, even ugly and without the flow we were looking for." But they did get the win they were looking for. At 5-1, Darien (10-11-0) extended its season, and became the 16th and final seed for the CIAC State Tournament.
The Wave gets to play at least another day, and after a practice on Tuesday, they'll head for the Bennett Rink at West Haven on Wednesday to face the number one seed, the West Haven Blue Devils (17-3-0), in first round play.
Despite an early season 8-1 loss to West Haven in mid-December, Vieira said:
"I think we match up well with them and I'm really looking forward to the game."
Richard Gregory opened the scoring at 9:33 of the first period with helpers from Doug Miller and Connor Sullivan. Less than two minutes later, Garren Fritts scored the first of his two goals.
"On the first one, John Baker gave me a real nice pass in the middle and I put it between the goalies' pads in the 5-hole," Fritts said.
It was 2-0 at the first intermission with the Wave outshooting the Pelicans 19-3.
Immaculate closed the gap midway through the second period, when they converted on a power play. Ryan Kennan, from the left circle, fired a blur past William Love. With the period winding down, the Wave got some cushion. They were on a power play with two Immaculate players sitting in the sin bin, when Brendan Hathaway scored for a 3-1 lead.
It was 3-1 after two periods with Darien holding a 32-8 edge in shots-on-goal.
The Pelicans picked up the tempo in the third period and got some decent to good scoring opportunities but Love turned everything away.
Then, Fritts got his second goal at 12:19 and the Wave led 4-1.
"I was in the right spot when I scored off a rebound of a John Baker shot," Fritts said.
The Pelicans pulled their goalie, Taylor Dobos, and with just 13 seconds left Christian Nielsen chased down a long-distance attempt that went wide of the goal, came off the end boards where Nielsen, from almost a dead angle, scored the final goal.
Darien lives to play another day.
- Darien: R.Gregory from Miller and Sullivan at 9:33
- Darien: Fritts from Baker at 11:06
- Immaculate: Kennan from Knecht (pp) at 7:51
- Darien: Hathaway (pp) at 12:34
- Darien: Fritts from Baker at 12:19
- Darien: Nielsen (unassisted) at 19:47
- Darien: Love 20/21
- Immaculate: Dobos 37/42