Connecticut Boys Division 1 Final: Top Seed ND-West Haven Overtakes Darien In Final Period, Wins First State Championship In A Decade

Jim Clark
Jim Clark joined Hockey Night in Boston in December 2019, and has covered high school hockey in Massachusetts for more than three decades. He also covers high school hockey and is a multiplatform editor for the Boston Globe, and previously spent two decades as high school hockey reporter at the Boston Herald, where he also served as the high schools editor from 2000-06. Clark was honored by the Mass. State Hockey Coaches Association with its William Stewart Award for contributions to the sport in May 2019, and also received the Joel Perlmutter Award for media coverage in 2006. A graduate of UMass, he also spent eight years as sports editor/reporter at the Sentinel & Enterprise in Fitchburg, and has extensively covered high school hockey in Central and Western Mass. as well as Connecticut.

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Notre Dame-West Haven went nearly wire to wire to reach the top of the CIAC Division 1 boys’ hockey mountain. But the last and biggest step certainly wasn’t easy for the Green Knights.

Top-seeded ND-West Haven scored three times in the third period to erase a one-goal deficit and ultimately conquer #6 Darien, 4-2, in the championship game Tuesday night at People’s United Center in Hamden.

The championship was the first for the NDWH program since 2012, and the program’s eighth overall.

Colby Faughan Notre Dame (WH)

Senior Colby Faughnan, junior Tye Battipaglia and sophomore James Mascari had the goals in the final 15 minutes for the Green Knights to finally overcome a game effort from a Darien team they had beaten twice in a span of five days in mid-February.

Leading 2-1 entering the third period, Darien survived some early pressure from NDWH in the opening minute looking for the equalizer. But the puck made its way out to the left point, where Faughan blasted a shot toward the mid slot that deflected off a Blue Wave defender and caught senior goalie Chris Schofield (17 saves) sliding the wrong way as it bounced into the vacant left side of the net.

With the game now even and 13:45 still to play, the Knights quickly set about their mission to finish the job.

Michael Pilato
Notre Dame (WH)

A little more than three minutes later, Battipaglia struck for what turned out to be the game-winner. He actually started the play on the breakout from the defensive zone with a chip off the boards that senior Michael Pilato received in the neutral zone. Flying up the right side, Pilato carried the puck toward the back of the net and drew two Darien defenders, then slipped a backhand pass to the doorstep. Trailing the play, Battipaglia was in perfect position to bang it home and put ND-West Haven on top, 3-2, with 10:39 to go.

Darien pressed for the tying score in the final minutes, but took a penalty that severely hampered that strategy. With the Wave still shorthanded and yet to pull Schofield for the extra skater, the Knights finished it off. After freshman Brody DiNuzzo broke up a Darien rush toward the net, sophomore Logan Hurd retrieved the puck and sent it ahead to Mascari in the neutral zone. Slipping behind the defense, Mascari skated in and beat Schofield with a quick forehand with 45.4 seconds to play.

Before that, it had been an uphill fight for the Green Knights for much of the game.

Darien went ahead with 3:46 left in the first after a good forecheck by junior Bobby Whittaker in the right corner caused the puck to slide right toward the back of the net. Senior Henry Gregory circled around and was able to wrap the puck inside the right post before Knights junior goalie Peter Alfano (20 saves) could react.

Robert McCarthy Notre Dame (WH)

The Wave carried that lead past the midpoint of the game, but just after having a power play expire, NDWH evened the score. Taking a feed from sophomore Matthew Bencivengo at the left point, sophomore Robert McCarthy skated to a spot between the top of the circle and the boards and then sent a floating shot to the net that somehow eluded Schofield and went under the bar with 7:07 left in the second period.

The momentum was short-lived, however. Following an icing, senior Tauson Pfeifle won the offensive zone faceoff to junior Arthur Devillers on his left wing. Devillers sent the puck toward the net that Pfeifle blocked with his skate, and then quickly flipped a shot that squeezed between Alfano’s pads and slowly rolled across the line.

But when the Knights tied it again in the third, they carried the momentum all the way through to another championship. NDWH lost only once against a CIAC team this season, a 4-3 defeat to New Canaan on Dec. 23. The Knights’ other losses were to Massachusetts powers Catholic Memorial, Central Catholic and Malden Catholic.

Darien, which had scrimmaged Massachusetts D1 finalists St. John’s Prep and Xaverian as well as Marshfield in the preseason, was looking for its first title since going back-to-back in 2015 and ’16.

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