DARIEN —There has been a recent pattern against quality opponents where the Darien boys lacrosse team jumps out to a quick lead, must withstand a comeback attempt and is forced to respond.
The Blue Wave have answered each call.
The latest example came this afternoon in a battle of the state’s two top-ranked teams and Darien’s biggest rival. New Canaan rallied behind Quintin O’Connell for five straight goals to tie the score at 6-6 late in the third quarter.
Jack Joyce ended the run for the Blue Wave and Hudson Pokorny later answered an over-the-shoulder goal by the Rams’ Chris Canet 1:12 later for a 9-7 victory.
“We always have that bounce-back goal because we’re a very gritty team,” said Andrew Darby, one of the leaders of the Blue Wave’s defense. “We’re always ready for a great comeback. There’s good camaraderie on the team.”
The Blue Wave are now the last remaining unbeaten team in league play, improving to 10-0 this season and winning their 64th straight game.
This was the second of four straight Saturday afternoons Darien will play conference contenders.
“I’m just happy to get past this round,” Darien coach Jeff Brameier said. “They walked on the field chirping a little bit, talking about our streak so at least for one more day we shut people up.”
Brian Minicus, continuing a memorable season, even stepping his play up another notch while Logan McGovern remains sidelined with an ankle injury, finished with 3 goals and 4 assists. Joyce and Blake Sommi, who were outstanding at midfield, scored 2 and 1 goal, respectively. Henri Pfeifle also scored twice, while Sean Collins stopped 14 shots.
“I don’t like to see that we had a 6-1 lead, and credit to them they chipped away, O’Connell got hot and we played not as good in that second and third quarter,” Brameier said. “We didn’t panic. I think we need to get more middies involved. I think with Pfeifle moving down to attack and Logan out has thrown our balance out a little bit, and our second midline is not as confident and our first midline plays both ways. Credit to Jack Joyce and Blake Sommi, they were animals.”
Darien has defeated teams from three states, including powers from California and Long Island, but Darby said the Rams continue to be the first contest circled on the calendar.
“They’re always a great team, they always bring their all and it’s always a fun game to play,” Darby said.
New Canaan rebounded from a slow start but fell to 7-3 and 5-1 in league play.
“It’s more about us and we’ve been talking about us all year,” New Canaan Chip Buzzeo said. “We made some mistakes today that gave Darien great goals. They’re a good team and when you make mistakes they capitalize. Hopefully we can clean them up, which I think we will after a couple of adjustments.”
Minicus had terrific assists to set up goals by Sommi and Pfeifle that bookended the first quarter, which ended with Darien ahead 4-1.
Two goals by Minicus made the score 6-1, but the Blue Wave were held scoreless for just over 17 1/2 minutes. New Canaan, with goaltender Carl Mazabras (13) making a number of outstanding saves, rode O’Connell scoring three of his 4 goals in succession during a span of just over 4 1/2 minutes, followed by Liam Griffiths evening the game at 6-6.
Mazabras then stopped Pokorny from close range before Joyce struck.
“Quintin is one of the better players in our league,” Buzzeo said. “I think everyone knows that now, not just from today but the last month. He’s played phenomenally. What we need to do is play better around him. It can’t just be the Quintin O’Connell show. It has to be a collective team offense and we had opportunities, just credit Darien. They really clamped down on a lot of our guys. We had opportunities and chances and we just didn’t finish.”
Brameier offered a somewhat similar assessment of his team.
It was really a battle where we did what we wanted to do, we had plenty of shots, their goalie got hot in the second half, otherwise it could have been a rout,” Brameier said. “Our goalie played well and our defense played well.”
Darien has two more difficult Saturday games looming, against Greenwich and Ridgefield, before the playoffs. The players have grown accustomed to putting their streak on the line.
“We don’t find it as much pressure because we’re always in this situation,” Darby said. “We treat every game as a championship. We’re kind of used to it at this point.”
Speaking of championships, Buzzeo is hoping his team will get at least one and perhaps two rematches with the Blue Wave with a title on the line.
“We look at the regular season as a way to improve every single day,” Buzzeo said. “It’s not just one game and yes they are undefeated and king of the mountain for a very long time. We’re not happy with the result. Hopefully we get to see them again and I think we will.”