The wait is finally over.
With a two-goal effort, senior captain Tommy Watters lifted No. 4 Darien over No. 1 Notre Dame-Fairfield in a 3-1 semifinal victory Wednesday at Ingalls Rink in New Haven. The Blue Wave (22-3-1) scored twice in a 31-second span during the third period, advancing to its first Division I championship since 1987. The Lancers (18-5-1) now head home after riding an 11-game win streak to an SWC-SCC conference title and the state semifinals.
"We have one guy, Tommy Watters, who you know, but this is a team of 23 guys and everyone did their jobs tonight," Darien coach Chris Gerwig said. "I can't say enough about my goaltender too, who weathered the storm and made some big saves when we needed it."
Saturday at 2 p.m. back at Ingalls, the Blue Wave will face Fairfield Prep -- a 4-3 OT winner over Notre Dame-West Haven -- in the championship.
At four minutes remaining in the final period, Watters claimed possession inside neutral ice during a 1-1 game. Skating forward and faced with a 2-on-1 rush, the senior forward blasted a shot from the high slot that zipped past Notre Dame-Fairfield goalie Zak Bouve upstairs.
"I was just trying to use the defenseman as a screen, which is something I've been trying to do all year," Watters said. "It just happened to work out there."
Moments later, Darien defenseman Nick Allam added another goal on a one-timer from the left circle to hand Darien the game. As the contest dragged on, the Blue Wave was able to regularly maintain longer puck possession and outshoot the Lancers. The team credited their advantage to a season-long strategy of wearing down opponents.
"I think we did a great job of spotting the puck deep and making their defense work," Gerwig said. "We thought that that was one of the keys for us to beat this team and create some turnovers and capitalize on those opportunities, which we did."
The Lancers struck first with 1:23 remaining in the first period on a goal from Danny Walsh on rebound. Walsh raced to the goalmoutch, where he poked a loose puck past Blue Wave goalie Mike Colon.
Colon refused to allow another score on his way to a 21-save night.
"You win some games, you lose some. But tonight I thought we just lost to a better team," Notre Dame coach Steve Hetherman said. "They took advantage of their opportunities and we didn't. We had a couple three-on-ones, three-on-twos and the puck didn't go our way tonight. It's hockey."
Heading into the semifinals, Darien was the only public school remaining in the field. Saturday it will have a chance to become the first non-private school to win a Division I title since 2010, when Hamden beat Fairfield Prep 6-5.
"That's the thing I'm most proud of with this team," Watters said. "(Darien's) a public school coming from one town that's not a big town at all. They've got people coming from all over to play for these teams, and I just think it's impressive we come from one town with 20,000 people."
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CIAC Division boys ice hockey semifinals
Darien 3, Notre Dame-Fairfield 1
DARIEN 0 1 2 --3
NOTRE DAME-FAIRFIELD 1 0 0 --1
Records: Darien 22-3-1; Notre Dame-Fairfield 18-5-1. Goals: D--Tommy Watters 2, Nick Allam; NDF--Danny Walsh. Assists: D--Jack Massie, Sam Knowlton, Robbie Juterbock. Goalies: D--Mike Colon (21 saves); NDF--Zak Bouve (17). Shots: D--20; NDF--22