Last year, Adam Liu ’09 camethisclose to being a Staples ice hockey hero in the 1st round of the FCIAC playoffs.
This year, his brother Aaron — a sophomore, and a defender last fall on the junior varsity team — did the same.
Both times, crucial goals by the Lius were disallowed by the officials. And both times, Darien was the beneficiary.
Here’s Matt Doran’s story from the Norwalk Hour sports blog, “Hour Sports Minute.” Maybe the 3rd time — next year — will be the charm.
Last season, the Staples-Weston co-op ice hockey team pushed Darien to the limit in the first round of the FCIAC playoffs, dropping a 3-2 overtime decision that might have been different had a late goal by Adam Liu not been taken off the board with eight seconds left in regulation.
On Tuesday night, Staples found itself in the same position, looking to post another upset over the Blue Wave at the Darien Ice Rink.
Staples trailed 4-3 with eight minutes left in the third period when it appeared as if Aaron Liu — Adam’s youner brother — scored with a quick shot from just inside the blue line.
But once again, the goal was disallowed and Darien (9-11) held on for a 5-4 victory.
Talk about deja vu.
“It all happened so fast,” Staples head coach Ralph Unker said. “My guy crossed the blue line and by the time he was in the zone the puck was in the net. It definitely crossed the goal line. It was six inches over the line. It went right through the goalie’s pads, but right away he reached behind him with his glove and threw it out of the net. The refs saw that and said it was no goal. But everyone said it was in. Even the Zamboni driver said it went in.”
It was a typical loss in a tough season for Staples, which finished 3-19-1 overall after losing all but two players from last season’s Division III state championship team. Six of its 16 losses came against Division I and II opponents by two goals or less.
Against Darien, a Division I team with a great hockey pedigree, the Wreckers hung in there despite using just eight skaters, including a freshman, a goalie playing defense and another first-year varsity defenseman.
Much of the credit for the toughness Staples showed this season goes to sophomores Kyle Wehmhoff and Aaron Liu.
Wehmhoff, a speedy center, has been one of the state’s top scorers all season. He tallied the first two goals against Darien to give Staples a 2-0 lead depite getting out-shot 21-3 in the first period. Wehmhoff finished with 34 goals and 29 assists for a team-high 63 points.
Liu also had a strong season on the first line, finishing with 16 goals and 29 assists.
The good news is Staples returns just about everyone on the roster next season and should have top defenseman Tal Laifer back after the sophomore missed the entire season due to injury.
If Staples can keep Wehmhoff from migrating to prep school, the Wreckers could be in for a great season in 2010-11. And they might even beat Darien.