NC Boys Lax Falls at Rival Darien in Battle of Unbeatens

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As if New Canaan and Darien residents need any more incentive to go see their respective high school boys lacrosse teams square off, Saturday afternoon’s contest pitted the longtime rivals up against one another with both squads coming in undefeated. And the stadium field at Darien High School was packed because of it.

While New Canaan’s senior attacker Clayton Burt recorded four second-half goals in the hopes of sparking a late New Canaan (9-1, 4-1 FCIAC) rally, a pair of Darien (9-0, 5-0 FCIAC) hat tricks from senior Jack Kniffin and junior Kevin Lindley and—coupled with untimely turnovers and penalties—proved too much for the Rams to overcome, as they fell to their rival for their first defeat of the season, 10-7.

“They [Darien] rode us really well,” New Canaan head coach Chip Buzzeo told “We probably were in the double digits when it comes to failed clears, and hats off to them for forcing those mistakes. We can’t give Darien extra possessions, especially when we were winning faceoffs. We should’ve dominated that game, and we didn’t. Darien played great and we didn’t.”

The first quarter had its fair share of close calls but neither team could crack the scoreboard in the game’s first 11 minutes. Then with time winding down, Darien’s Liam Rischmann possessed the ball behind the net, charged towards the front and put one on goal. The ball deflected off New Canaan goaltender Drew Morris’ stick, bounced down and in just six seconds before the horn.

Darien carried the momentum with them to start the second quarter as just over a minute into the period, Finlay Collins netted a feed from Colin Minicus to put the Blue Wave up two. New Canaan would get on the board a couple minutes later when junior midfielder Graham Braden picked up a groundball in front of the net and sent it past Darien goaltender Ryan Cornell to make it 2-1.

The Blue Wave would answer with two goals in the game’s next three minutes as Lindley netted his first of the afternoon on a diving shot and Kniffin notched his first tally—a man up—from an improbable angle that beat Morris over his right shoulder to stretch the lead to three, 4-1.

New Canaan followed that by committing an unnecessary roughness penalty to put them a man down again. Even so, Braden would notch his second of the quarter when he sneaked behind the Darien defense, took a teammate’s feed and beat Cornell for a shorthanded goal, cutting the Rams’ deficit to two.

It was short-lived, however, as Kniffin weaved through traffic in front of Morris’ net to beat the goalie and put the Blue Wave back up three, 5-2, with just over three minutes to play in the opening half.

New Canaan’s Ryan O’Connell pulled the Rams back within two, 5-3 with 10 seconds remaining, bouncing a shot through Cornell’s legs just before the half.

New Canaan won the opening faceoff of the second half and put two quality shots toward Cornell, both narrowly missing high and wide. The third shot of the possession was the charm, as Burt netted his first of the afternoon 1:40 into the period to shrink the Darien lead to 5-4.

Darien’s Minicus responded two minutes later, to get the Wave back up two. Burt would strike again, this time on a pretty shot from 15 yards out that bounced right on by Cornell shrinking the deficit back to one, 6-5.

The duo of Kniffin and Lindley, however, had no thought of letting New Canaan tie the game for the first time as with just over three minutes remaining in the period, Kniffin found a driving Lindley from behind the net, and Lindley put the feed past Morris to reclaim the two-goal lead, 7-5, which would hold for the rest of quarter.

Darien would get back on the board quickly in the fourth when after a shot from Jack Book went off the post. Darien maintained possession and a minute later Lindley found the back of the net again for his hat-trick tally, a wraparound shot that beat Morris through the legs to make it 8-5 Darien.

Two minutes later, Darien committed its first penalty of the half. This gave New Canaan an opportunity to cut back into its deficit, going a man-up with just over eight minutes remaining. After a Jack Hoelzer shot hit the post, Darien took possession and ran all the way to the New Canaan net, with Collins notching the shorthanded goal to give the Blue Wave its biggest lead of the afternoon at 9-5.

New Canaan’s Burt made sure that his team would not go away quietly. Just 35 seconds after Darien’s tally, Burt put his third score of the half past Cornell to make it 9-6 Blue Wave. One minute later he netted his fourth to cut the Darien lead to 9-7 after firing a shot on net from 10 yards out.

Despite Burt’s efforts to spark a late New Canaan rally, what Darien had already done to that point just proved too much for the Rams to overcome. When Darien senior Rock Stewart forced a Rams turnover with just over a minute-and-a-half to play, the Blue Wave took the ensuing possession and scored the final goal of the game, securing the 10-7 victory.

“Look, as much as you would love to go undefeated. The reality is, with our schedule, it’s very hard to do,” Buzzeo said. “They [Darien] have some tough games coming their way and we have some tough games coming our way. Hopefully we get a chance to play them in the [FCIAC] playoffs. I would love the opportunity to play them again. I’m sure they would love the opportunity to play us again—it’s just such a great game to be a part of. But hats off to Darien today, they were much better than we were.”

The Rams next take the field on Tuesday, May 3, for a 4 p.m. contest against Fairfield Ludlowe, at Dunning Stadium.

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