Brothers Brian and Kevin Williams earned a coveted title last weekend after eight years of coaching in the Darien Youth Hockey Association. The Darien Pee Wee A1 team captured the Connecticut Hockey Conference Tier III state championship with a 3-2 overtime win over the Western Connecticut Colonials.
This is the first time since we started coaching that we even had a sniff at hardware, Kevin Williams said. I think after a month or so of practice we knew we had exceptional goaltending and that the overall talent level was pretty close. The team really came together.
The players are mostly from Darien, New Canaan and Norwalk. Some players from Westport and Ridgefield also skate for the team. Most players are 12 and in sixth or seventh grade. Brian and Kevin Williams are co-coaches who played in the Darien youth league and for Darien High School.
The team has had a season to remember. It entered the weekend with a 44-11-4 record, including a 16-3 mark in conference competition. In the state tournament, Darien went 5-0-1 and outscored opponents, 26-10.
The championship game against No. 1 seeded Western was the most dramatic. Darien, the No. 2 seed, nursed a 2-1 lead into the third period. Western forced the overtime, with a goal with eight minutes left in regulation.
Darien won when Jeff Pracella poked home a rebound of a shot taken by Thomas Sulger. The game-winner came with two minutes left in the 10-minute overtime. We always tell the kids to go hard to the net, put the stick on the ice and good things happen, Kevin Williams said.
Darien also won a National Youth Hockey League tournament in Marlborough, Mass., in January, outscoring opponents, 31-1, as it swept five games. It has outscored opponents, 320-120, on the season.
There really has been a turning point to the season, Kevin said. When we wanted to challenge them to get to another level, they raised their game. They checked their egos at the door and played as a team. Theyre very eager to learn. Theyve embraced the whole team experience.
The state victory qualified the team for a New England sectional tournament later this month in Lewiston, Maine. For now, the coaches and players are still celebrating. We played all of our players and everyone contributed, Kevin Williams said. Thats what makes it so special.
Photo caption: Lying down, from left: Ryan Corcoran and Max Christian
Kneeling, from left: Jeff Lane, Jeff Pracella, Tyler Hill, Thomas Sulber, Jack Droogan, Gus Fraser and Jay Dickson.
Standing, from left: Tommy Napolitano, Kyle Canelli, Matt Smith, Ben Brown, Colin Corcoran, Hunter Manchuck, Matt Martens and Henry Hathaway.
Standing back, from left: Brian Williams and Kevin Williams.
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