By Dave Ruden
DARIEN — The music was blaring out of the locker room, and as the door occasionally swung open and a player could be seen doing what appeared to be a dance move, it was readily apparent that the members of the Darien High School hockey team have much better rhythm on ice.
The Blue Wave had afforded themselves the chance to celebrate. Six days after beating Fairfield Prep, the perennial team to beat in the state, Darien came back and took down its biggest rival, and perhaps biggest rival for the FCIAC title, New Canaan, 4-1, in a non-league game Saturday afternoon.
It was probably good that the Blue Wave, now 2-1, had a six-day layoff. They had a little time to savor the win over the Jesuits, then could get their focus back on New Canaan.
Not that any Darien team ever has a problem getting up for New Canaan.
“I’m just very proud of the guys,” Darien coach Chris Gerwig said. “I didn’t know how we’d come out for this big game. Early on we were a little rusty, but I thought we really settled down after the first period and got back to the way we played against Prep.”
There were two key turning points in the game. Trailing, 1-0, the Rams’ Patrick Hompe converted a pass from Peter Reinhardt to tie the game at 1:40 in the second period.
Thirty-one seconds later, Tommy Watters put the Blue Wave back into a lead it would not relinquish.
“When you can respond like that it’s big,” Gerwig said. “We didn’t let the momentum change and go in their favor.”
Connor Davis’ goal later in the period put Darien ahead 3-1, but the Rams (2-2) came out fired up in the third, peppering goaltender Michael Colon. In a key sequence, Harry Stanton, the Rams’ star forward, had an open shot that Colon stopped. Then he robbed Stanton again on the rebound.
“Any time you can stop Harry Stanton in that situation…” Gerwig said. “He has a knack for finding the net. He’s one of the best forwards in the state this year. The momentum shifts if he scores that goal. It’s 3-2 and who knows what happens.”
Colon has been a momentum killer thus far for the Blue Wave, a senior-laden team that is built for a big run this winter. Colon sat behind Michael Collins last season.
“It feels great,” Colon said of his contributions thus far. “I watched last year and I definitely wanted to be out there. Michael Collins is a lot to live up to. I’ve been waiting for this.”
Colon made 21 saves, 11 of them in the final period. Against two of the state’s best teams over the past week, he allowed just one shot to elude him.
“He has been pretty rock-solid in our first three games,” Gerwig said. “He’s a great athlete. He’s very mobile around the net and he’s very calm. He’s not flopping around. He’s a stand-up straight goaltender, which you don’t see too much of.”
As impressive as Colon’s work in goal was his response to a question about the pressure of facing Prep and New Canaan, the potential roadblocks to postseason titles.
“I’ve played a lot of big games,” Colon said. “In youth hockey they seem like a big deal, even when it’s not a big deal. Our defense has played great in both games. It was a big week for us.”
As for his saves against Stanton, Colon said “He’s a great player. He always finds a way of creating opportunities for himself. Even when we’ve got guys watching him, we’re aware of where he is on the ice. It was definitely a big play when we stopped him there.”
New Canaan coach Bo Hickey said he was disappointed by his team’s effort.
“I guarantee you the next time we take the ice will be a little different,” he said. “There will be a little better approach.”
Asked what he thought the problem was, Hickey said, “I think we’re waiting for the next guy to do something instead of us taking the initiative individually. They are a good high school hockey team. I though we were too. Tonight we weren’t. I didn’t think we played with a lot of enthusiasm.”
The Blue Wave, in large part because of the play of their goaltender, are not lacking for gusto, but in a long season they are keeping perspective.
“Let’s just say we have high hopes, that’s for sure,” Colon said. “We’re hopeful.”