New Haven Register (New Haven, CT)

No. 1 Notre Dame-WH edges No. 2 Darien

- By Dave Stewart

DARIEN — The Notre Dame-West Haven boys ice hockey team has owned the No. 1 ranking in the GameTimeCT state poll for the better part of the past two seasons.

The Green Knights don’t look like they’ll be ready to surrender that number any time soon.

In a battle of the teams that have topped the GameTimeCT poll the entire season, No. 1 Notre Dame-West Haven took a two-goal lead into the third period, and then held on for a 3-2 victory over No. 2 Darien Saturday at the Darien Ice House.

The game was a rematch of last year’s state final, also won by Notre Dame (10-1-1), and marked the Knights’ 19th straight win against Connecticu­t opponents, including four this season.

Being No. 1 makes Notre Dame a target, but the Knights have set out to prove they belong their every day.

“We came into the game thinking that we were the best,” Notre Dame senior goalie Connor Crowley said. “We’ve been proving that all season long, so we just came in to do it again.”

“Any time we can beat a wellcoache­d team like Darien in an adverse environmen­t., we are thrilled,” Notre Dame coach Larry Vieira said. “We do not take anything for granted. They have no weaknesses and we’re very fortunate to get out of here with a victory.”

Darien (8-1-3) suffered its first loss of the season and has lost its last five meetings with the Knights, including a 4-2 defeat in last year’s CIAC Div. I final at Quinnipiac.

“They’re a very, very good team,” Darien coach Mac Budd said of Notre Dame. “You’re not No. 1 for close to two years if you’re not a really good team.

They have everything going: Good depth, good skill, good coaching. You’re going to have to play a really strong game to get past them this year.”

The Knights received another great game from Crowley, who collected 26 saves and stood tall in the third when the Wave had a 5-on-3 and a power play while down just one.

Crowley, a backup for the past three years, stepped into the starting role when Peter Alfano was injured in the preseason. With Alfano on the way back, Notre Dame now finds itself with two top net


“Crowley has taken the bull by the horns and he’s done nothing but help us win games,” Vieira said. “We couldn’t be happier for him. He’s a legit goalie and he’s proven it this year as a senior. I’m very fortunate to have two great senior goalies.”

“I was just waiting my turn and I was ready for when the moment happened,” Crowley said. “I feel like no matter who’s in net, me or Peter, we’ll be fine. With either goalie in net, it gives us a competitiv­e edge and hopefully we’ll be able to win another state championsh­ip.”

After a fast-paced and physical first period, the Blue wave took the initial lead on a goal by Tyler Reckin 2:06 into the second frame.

The Knights’ Michael Azzarone answered quickly and tied the game 1:38 later.

With 5:47 remaining in the second, James Mascari put the Knights up when he skated across the top of the zone, found an open lane, and fired in the goahead goal.

In the closing seconds of the second period, Notre Dame defenseman Dylan Bankowski skated across the line and wristed a long-range shot which slipped past Quinn Kreppein for a 3-1 lead.

Darien came back strong in the third period and outshot the Knights 10-5 while closing the gap to one on a goal by Charlie

Schwind with 8:07 remaining.

“It was a little bit of a step back for us at the end of the second period, but we came out ready to play in the third,” Budd said. “The game was hardly over at 3-1 and we played great in the third period.”

Late in the game, Darien had power play and then a two-man advantage for 24 seconds, but Crowley and the defense held up.

“I couldn’t say that I didn’t have a little nerves,” Crowley said. “But in that moment, all I was thinking about was stopping the puck and my defense helped me in that situation. We came out with the win because of it.

“All the guys stepped up on the ice and on the bench and we got it done.”


Connor Crowley, Notre Dame-West Haven: The senior collected 26 saves, including 10 in the third period while withstandi­ng a Darien 5on-3 and a power play.


“Our guys don’t panic and they problem-solve on the bench. I don’t have to do anything except watch them turn it up. We don’t want to be in that situation (down 1-0) too often, but we’ve been in that situation two or three times this year and every time they’ve responded.”

— Notre Dame-West Haven coach Larry Vieira

 ?? Dave Stewart / Hearst Connecticu­t Media ?? Notre Dame-West Haven’s Dylan Bankowski (6) and Michael Azzarone celebrate a goal against Darien on Saturday.
Dave Stewart / Hearst Connecticu­t Media Notre Dame-West Haven’s Dylan Bankowski (6) and Michael Azzarone celebrate a goal against Darien on Saturday.

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