Center Ice

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Notebook: Prep bests Darien 2-1 for Division 1 championship

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Colon’s performance one for the ages

Yes, to the victor indeed go the spoils. But to the defeated of the 2014 Connecticut Division 1 boys hockey championship, should go credit for a true all-time performance.

For, over the first 39 minutes of Saturday’s championship game, it didn’t matter how Fairfield Prep wanted to to attack losing goaltender Michael Colon. The Jesuits were simply going to be denied.

Shots from three-on-twos, two-on-ones, breakaways, one-timers, wristshots, slappers, upstairs, downstairs, through traffic and blasts from the blue line were all stopped at one point by Colon. Even after Dean Lockery’s tying score rocked Ingalls with 6:11 to go, the senior netminder kept up his magnificence through overtime. Prep’s Matt Wikman, who scored a game-winner against Notre Dame-West Haven in the semifinals, couldn’t strike on a breakaway one minute into the extra session. Then, Colon snared a blistering puck destined to end the game in the top-shelf with a masterful glove save.

“He’s been our guy all year long,” Darien coach Chris Gerwig said. “Tonight was his night. He almost gave us a chance to win. We said in the lockerroom, if there’s one guy we could do it for, do it for him.”

After the game, Colon shared with the media the Jesuits did a good job of screening him on the final goal, and he never saw the puck once it left the stick of hero Vincent D’Amore. The next thing he knew, it lay in the bottom of the net. Yet, however devastating the championship loss most certainly was for the All-State goaltender, he remained both gracious and affable while answering questions, as he stepped away from an otherwise somber Darien lockeroom.

Later, Colon received the championship game puck from a CIAC official for his efforts.

Prep’s victory started in the circle

According to Jesuit players and coaches post-game, Darien’s goal less than four minutes into the title contest seemed to wake them up and get them going. Early on, Prep showed some uncharacteristic nerves, and it cost them. One could argue that once they were settled down, the eventual champions were in cruise control throwing a total of 39 pucks on net until D’Amore’s blast in overtime.

Well, it wasn’t that easy.

In order to maintain pressure on defensive-minded Darien, the Jesuits had to win face-off after face-off to keep possession and wear down the Blue Wave. And that’s exactly what they did. Prep dominated the circle in both their attacking and defensive zones over the latter two periods and extra session. Kenny Kochiss snapped multiple pucks up as soon as they hit the ice, allowing his fellow linemates to then bomb away at Colon.

Wikman, Lockery and Matt McKinney were all handed instantaneous breakaways from face-offs won by their teammates. In fact, Locerky’s game-tying score came seven seconds after a Prep win inside the circle. Now Colon’s performance and the humongous margin in shots are deserved stories from yesterday’s title game. But neither of them could have stolen headlines if the Jesuits don’t take as many face-offs as they did in the first place.

Darien runs out of gas

Fairfield Prep may have been down 1-0 after the first two periods. But during those 30 minutes, the Jesuits made a key investment. When they couldn’t score, they kept up their forecheck and pounded Blue Wave players every chance they got.

By the end of the final frame with the game tied 1-1, Darien had little left in the tank to battle with for overtime.

“They definitely wore us down by the end,” Colon said. “I could tell guys were gassed, trying to take short shifts and icing the puck towards the net. We just tried to weather the storm, and in the end, they scored. But I give credit to them. To put so many pucks on net, that’s impressive.”

It’s rare that a team will so openly admit a lack of energy, but both Blue Wave players and coaches confessed post-game they weren’t themselves. Prep had robbed them of their usual energy and game with constant pressure.

“They had good puck movement, they got a lot of traffic and they were very physical,” Gerwig said. “That could’ve worn us down too … They’re defending champs for a reason.”

Andrew Callahan

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