Undefeated No More: New Canaan Lax Sinks Darien, Ends Wave’s Winning Streak at 34


It had been two years since Darien lost a game. The last 34 games they played in, they were the victors each and every time.

Three of those losses in that streak came at the expense of New Canaan in 2014—an OT loss during the regular season, an OT loss in the FCIAC tournament, and a 10-8 defeat in the CIAC Championship.

But on Saturday at a packed Dunning Stadium, the Rams turned the page.

With the combination of senior co-captain Michael Kraus’ four goals, stellar goaltending by sophomore Drew Morris and collapsing, shutdown defense, New Canaan (9-2, 6-1 FCIAC) defeated Darien (11-1, 7-1 FCIAC), in a 9-8 thriller.

“Our defense played extremely well,” coach Chip Buzzeo told NewCanaanite.com. “It was a fun game to be a part of. Darien is a great team. But our defense was definitely a bright spot for us today.”

New Canaan got the scoring going fairly early, as less than three minutes into the contest Kraus found the back of the net coming from behind Darien goaltender Ryan Cornell’s right side and beating him over his left shoulder.

Less than a minute later, Kraus struck again. After receiving a feed from fellow co-captain Justin Meichner, Kraus worked through the Darien defense, giving the Rams a 2-0 lead.

Over the next seven minutes, Darien had two extended stays in the offensive zone. Even so, because of the aforementioned strong defense Darien—despite throwing a handful toward the net—could only get one shot on goal each time, both of which Morris saved.

Morris’ second save led to New Canaan going back on the attack, culminating in a tally for Owen Toland. The senior midfielder fought through traffic and scored, despite being knocked down by three Darien defenders.

Taking that 3-0 lead into the second quarter, Kraus found Meichner, and the senior co-captian fired it past Cornell for a 4-0 Rams lead.

The Blue Wave did not go down without a fight.

After being held scoreless for the first 17:11 of the game, Timmy Lochtefeld got Darien on the board, after taking a feed from teammate Colin Minicus to make it 4-1 New Canaan.

Less than two minutes later, Riley Stewart added another tally for the Wave.  34 seconds after that, Jack Kniffin netted a third straight Darien goal, cutting New Canaan’s lead to 4-3.

New Canaan immediately stormed the offensive zone, thanks to a faceoff win from senior Teddy Dumbauld. Seconds into the possession, Michael Kraus, came from behind the net with a shot that beat Cornell down low, stopping Darien’s momentum, albeit just momentarily.

The Wave answered quickly as just under a minute later, Kniffin added his second score of the game. And with 1:46 left in the half, Jack Book knotted the game up at five.

New Canaan answered just before the intermission as junior Kyle Smith found Ryan O’Connell heading to the right of the net. O’Connell took the feed and promptly bounced it through the legs of Cornell, putting New Canaan up 6-5 entering halftime.

The Rams took a two-goal lead early in the third as 1:13 into the quarter, Kyle Smith got a goal himself off another stellar feed from Kraus.

It would stay 7-5 for the next eight-and-a-half minutes, thanks in part to more outstanding defense and a couple spectacular saves by Morris under pressure from Darien’s attack.

The Wave eventually broke through in the quarter with 2:10 remaining, as Kevin Lindley beat Morris, trimming the deficit back to 7-6, a score which held through rest of the third.

Darien started the fourth with a strong push, and while Morris made another save on theWave’s first shot attempt, Darien eventually scored the equalizer, tying the game at 7 apiece.

New Canaan followed that with a strong, extended presence in the offensive zone thanks to another faceoff win from Dumbauld. After two shots towards the net went wide, the third one was the charm as O’Connell’s second goal of the afternoon gave New Canaan an 8-7 lead.

43 seconds later, Michael Kraus saw a hole in the slot and sprinted towards the net. Teammate Peter Swindell found him and connected on the pass and Kraus put home the shot for his fourth goal of the contest and 9-7 Rams advantage.

“Michael Kraus is one of the best players in CT,” said Buzzeo of his Virginia-bound senior. “He’s a leader. He comes to play every day, not just in games. I’ve known Michael for six years now. He’s a very special player.”

As New Canaan found out last season, Darien would not go away quietly. Due to aggressive Blue Wave defense, New Canaan lost possession and Darien called a timeout with 1:33 left to set up a play. 11 seconds later Darien midfielder Ian Burgoyne got a shot past Morris to close New Canaan’s lead to 9-8.

Despite looking like a familiar script, for Buzzeo and the Rams it was a different year and a different Rams squad. And eventually it would be a different result.

“I don’t think we thought about last year at all,” Buzzeo said. “It’s a new team for both groups. Of course, you don’t want to be losing to the same team over and over again, but this was about this year’s team.”

After Darien forced another Rams turnover, Drew Morris stonewalled Kniffin with a tremendous save, then sprinted behind the net to be closest to the ball to give New Canaan possession with under 30 seconds to play. The goalie’s hustle essentially sealed the victory for the Rams.

“Drew Morris was phenomenal today,” Buzzeo said. “We know how good he is. We knew we were going to get that type of goalie going into the season. And he’s playing big every game.”

As a former New Canaan star, Buzzeo knows how important this win is. Though not guaranteed, the prospect of a future New Canaan-Darien matchup in the playoffs is something the Rams head coach hopes will come to fruition.

“It would be so much fun to play Darien again,” Buzzeo said. “This rivalry is so special. I was telling the guys before the game, if I could go back and play any game it would be against Darien. Win or lose, it’s fun.”


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