DARIEN – The won-lost record was 2-6 and it was looking as if the season was starting to slip away from the Darien High School boys hockey team. The Blue Wave desperately needed something to get back on track.
Senior co-captain Hunter Hazelton had an idea.
“Have you ever jump-started your car?” he asked after tonight’s game against rival Greenwich.” That’s what we needed. We needed to jump-start the car.”
Hazleton didn’t need cables. He didn’t pop the clutch. Instead the defenseman used the old delayed-shot-from-the-point trick to give the Blue Wave the charge they needed.
Hazelton’s play with four minutes remaining in the third period gave Darien a much-needed 3-2 victory over previously undefeated Greenwich at the Darien Ice Rink.
“With Hazelton, the big thing is good decision-making,” Darien coach Mac Budd said. “He’s a senior co-captain who has been on a championship team (2015 and 2016 state champs). So he can handle the situation.”
Greenwich (5-1, 1-1 FCIAC) had just killed a penalty when Hazelton got the puck at the Greenwich blue line and cocked his stick for a slap shot. But Cardinals defenseman Oliver Fulton threw his body in front of Hazelton in an attempt to block the shot, so Hazelton hesitated with his shot just long enough for Fulton to slide by and then flicked a wrist shot past Greenwich goalie Ben Nash for what proved to be the game-winner.”
“I faked the slap shot and then he slid by and I saw an opening on top,” Hazleton said. “I just got lucky I guess.”
Not luck, his coach said.
“Hunter has a lot of poise,” Budd said. “He knows what it takes to win.”
James Gregory and Hudson Pokorny had first-period goals for Darien and goalie Henri Pfeilfle stopped 25 shots as the Blue Wave (3-6, 2-0) recharged their battery.
“It’s been an interesting season so far,” Budd said. “We lost our first two then we had the win over New Canaan (8-1) but then went off the tracks (losing four in a row). We were a 2-6 team but it didn’t feel like 2-6.”
To be fair, five of Darien’s losses came against teams ranked in the top 8 in the current CIAC Division 1 state rankings and another came against a highly regarded LaSalle Academy team from Rhode Island.
“They’re not a 2-6 team,” Greenwich coach Chris Rurak said. “Any time Greenwich and Darien play you can throw out the records. This is one of the biggest rivalries in Connecticut.”
The Blue Wave needed a signature victory and came out looking as if they were well aware of that. Just 4:48 into the contest Gregory took a cross-ice pass from Matt Daileader and sent a wrist shot past Nash (20 saves) for a 1-0 lead.
Darien was in control for much of the remainder of the first period and took a 2-0 lead after some physical play left the Cardinals a man short. A fight nearly broke out earlier, setting up the Darien power play, but the officials did a good job breaking it up.
Pokorny’s ensuing power play goal was similar to Gregory’s tally. CJ Hathaway sent a perfect pass from the right side to Pokorny, who was stationed about 15 feet in front of Nash, and his wrister sailed in over the goalie’s left shoulder.
Greenwich then came out determined to protect its undefeated record, gaining the better of play for the first nine minutes. The Cards finally pulled within one when Charlie Graves knocked a loose puck past Pfeifle, with Will Baugher assisting.
Then, eight seconds after Graves’ goal, another near brawl was diffused when Darien’s Max Sharp and Bennett McDermott and Greenwich’s JT Lawrence scuffled near the Greenwich net, with Sharp receiving a 10-minute misconduct along with a minor penalty.
“It was a little more physical, a little more emotion than our first meeting,” Ryurak said, referring to Greenwich’s 4-3 victory on Dec. 30 in the outdoor Winter Classic.
Just 1:40 after Sharp’s penalty, with the Cards on the power play, Baugher tied the game, batting a loose puck in front of the Darien goal past Pfeifle, who had stopped Matt Davey twice before Baugher finally converted for the tying goal.
Greenwich, which was outshot 8-6 in the opening period, had 14 shots on Pfeifle in the middle stanza compared to four for Darien.
That left it up to Hazelton, who gave the Blue Wave the charge they needed.