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Wednesday, March 21 Sports

Column: A season to remember

They say it's tough to beat a team three times.

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They're not lying.

The New Canaan boys hockey team faced the old idiom's unforgiving veracity Saturday in the state tournament, when it fell in its third meeting with No. 2 Notre Dame-West Haven, who the Rams had beaten twice before.

Game over. Season over.

From the narrow "playoff success is all that matters" view, 2013-14 was more or less a year of disappointment for the Rams. For a team that won 16 of its last 17 games to finish with an overall mark of 19-5-1, you'd project that a semifinal berth should be in the cards at least somewhere. As mentioned, it wasn't.

As omitted, however, this New Canaan group was actually one of legendary coach Bo Hickey's favorites of all-time. Now, shouldn't that kind of praise be reserved for championship clubs? You'd think so, but that's why the postseason perspective is so narrow. There were 24 games before the Rams fell to the Green Knights. There was adversity. There was triumph. And, in total, there was one hell of a season.

Of course, let's not get carried away with the lack of playoff success here. New Canaan did capture its third FCIAC championship in five years with an epic 5-2 victory over rival Darien a few weekends ago. Title game MVP Mac Wright played fabulously between the pipes, co-captain Jack O'Rourke scored twice and even freshman Drew Morris got in on the action with the deciding goal. Prior to the championship game, the Rams toppled Ridgefield in overtime by following the lead of co-captain Harry Stanton, who banged home the game-winner with minutes to go. In addition to a title game berth, the Ridgefield victory provided sweet revenge over the only team to have beaten New Canaan in more than two months.

During the early part of the season, this kind of finish could only have been miles from the minds of Ram faithful, as the team began 2-3 with bad losses to Hamden and Darien. The final defeat, a tough 3-2 home decision against Notre-Dame Fairfield was soon followed with a 1-1 tie at Darien, giving real cause for concern regarding New Canaan's offense against good teams.

Then, the Rams began to pull themselves together.

Putting past troubles in its rear view, the team reeled off a 10-game unbeaten streak prior to falling at Ridgefield. The stretch included a marvelous 3-2 victory over Notre Dame-West Haven at home. As the game wound down, the Green Knights had earned a power play opportunity for the entirety of the final two minutes, but were stonewalled by a terrific performance by Wright and Co.

Truthfully, though, explosive offense carried New Canaan ever since the turn of the calendar year. The red and black averaged a hair under five goals per game since Jan. 1.

By season's end, Stanton and another co-captain, Stephen Mettler, were later recognized as All-FCIAC 1st-team members, and Wright received honorable mention. The FCIAC title was New Canaan's 18th all-time and 10th under Hickey, who, just like anyone else who saw the 2013-14 Rams play this season, won't be forgetting them anytime soon.

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