DARIEN -- The opponent never had a chance to breathe.
The Darien High School girls ice hockey team scored twice in the opening 1:38 of play and went on to post a 7-1 victory over No. 8 seed Hamden High School in the state tournament playoff quarterfinals Tuesday night at Darien Ice rink.
The win means No. 1 seed Darien (20-2 overall) will now face Guilford High in Thursday's semifinals. No. 5 seed Guilford ousted No. 4 New Canaan, 3-2 Tuesday evening. It is possible but not definite that Thursday's contest will be at Darien Ice rink. at 6 p.m.
"Our plan was to try to keep it close. But those two early goals took us right out of the plan," said Hamden head coach Mike Callan. "We were excited to have the opportunit to face Darien. But we just have to tip our helmets to them."
Darien did come at Hamden in waves. Georgia Cassidy finished with a hat trick while Marissa Baker tallied twice for Darien, which led 4-0 after one period and 5-1 after two periods. Sage Thacher and Ellie Bennett completed the Blue Wave scoring.
Darien goalie Shannon Hall registered 12 saves. Hamden senior goalie and captain Megan DeCrescente was much busier, collecting 40 saves on the night.
"The early 2-0 deficit stunned our entire team," Hamden's Callan said. "But I think Megan -- who is our captain and our leader. Showed her skills and her true colors after that first period."
And so, the girls ice hockey state tournament -- still put together by the Connecticut high school coaches (with oversight by the SCC and FCIAC) rather than the CIAC since there aren't enough teams across the state to reach the CIAC standard -- is down to Darien, Guilford, Hall-Conard and probably Simsbury (which faced Trumbull-St. Joseph) in a late contest Tuesday night.
"The best part of this season for me is seeing how hard the girls work every day. They don't know what quit is," said Darien High head coach Jamie Tropsa. "It's non-stop. Their work ethic is so impressive. This group does NOT like to lose."
It was good to see Darien not rest on its laurels after capturing the FCIAC Championship last Saturday with an 8-1 triumph over Ridgefield.
"Winning the FCIAC Championship was so important to everybody connected with our program," Darien's Tropsa said. "It is hard to keep going. But the state championship is an extra special accomplishment if we can do it. Our girls aren't satisfied with success yet."
They certainly made a believer out of Hamden's Callan.
"When I look at Darien, I see a well-coached group. I see a skilled group. I see a very deep team," Callan said. "In my opinion, they are the best girls ice hockey team in the state that I've seen. Darien is so hungry. They have such a killer instinct."
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The Blue Wave defeated Guilford on the road, 4-1 back on December 23, 2013.
It will in all likelihood be Simsbury standing between Darien and the state championship. It is hopeful but not definite -- because the Yale University men's hockey team is involved in playoffs -- that the girls ice hockey state final can be played at Yale's historic Ingalls Rink.
Darien beat Simsbury, 6-0, at home very early this season in a game where a Blue Wave shorthanded goal during a 5-on-3 Simsbury powerplay broke it open. Simsbury edged Darien, 3-2, at home on Feb. 12.
"I think Simsbury is the one team that can make a run at Darien," Hamden's Callan said. "Simsbury has a deep roster, they can grind with the puck and they have kids who can score."
Time will tell the tale. But Darien will be ready to face the challenge.
State Tourney Playoff Quarterfinals
Darien 7, Hamden 1
HAMDEN 0 1 0 --1
DARIEN 4 1 2 --7
Records: Hamden 11-9; Darien 20-2.
Goals: H -- Sam Talmadge. D -- Georgia Cassidy 3, Marissa Baker 2, Sage Thacher, Ellie Bennett. Assists: H -- Sam Cozzolino. D -- Baker, Cassidy, Thacher, Schuyler van den Broek, Lauren Cicero. Goalies: H -- Megan DeCrescente (40 saves). D -- Shannon Hall (12 saves).