GREENWICH \u2014 Hard hat on his head, Winter Classic trophy in his arms in the hallway at the Greenwich Skating Club, Billy Branca said a night like Wednesday takes him back. \u201cGrowing up, Gorham\u2019s Pond in Darien, I bet there\u2019s a few in Greenwich as well,\u201d Branca said after the senior forward and his Darien boys hockey teammates beat Greenwich 4-2 Wednesday evening. \u201cWe\u2019ve spent hours (on the pond) from morning till night when it freezes over. I\u2019ve taken off school to go play on the ponds. It\u2019s a great experience to play outside.\u201d The fourth-annual event under the lights amid the trees at the club drew a crowd that rimmed most of the rink, with several dozen more in the building or up on patios. Last year\u2019s edition, like so much, didn\u2019t happen amid the COVID-19 pandemic. And though there were a lot more masks than surely most people would\u2019ve hoped to see by now, at least they played it. \u201cThis night\u2019s special just for the atmosphere,\u201d Branca said. \u201cIt\u2019s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for a high school team to be able to play outside, a bunch of fans right here on the glass.\u201d Coincidentally, Branca said he was one of five Darien players who took part two years ago, when the Blue Wave won for the first time. Greenwich won the first two in 2017 and 2018. \u201cWe feel blessed to have the opportunity to play in a game like this,\u201d Darien coach Mac Budd said. \u201cIt\u2019s awesome for the guys, for Greenwich to be kind enough. Greenwich sophomore Jackson Price got to play in the game for the first time, if not for the first time on the rink. He scored the game\u2019s first goal. \u201cWith the fans and everything \u2014 I used to play for the Skating Club, so it\u2019s very nostalgic for me,\u201d Price said. \u201cIt\u2019s very nice to come back out here to play in front of friends and past teammates and have fun.\u201d Simsbury plays a couple of games a season at an open-air rink at Simsbury Farms Golf Course. Guilford is playing a handful of games at New Haven\u2019s Ralph Walker Ice Rink, also open-air; the first was Wednesday\u2019s 3-2 Lyman Hall win over the Grizzlies. The temperature Wednesday was in the low 40s even after the sun went down, so it wasn\u2019t too cold. There was even a bit of a mist above the ice near the Zamboni door before the teams took the ice for warmup. PLAYER OF THE GAME Branca called himself a grinder, and Budd agreed with the label. \u201cThat\u2019s what he does well,\u201d the coach said. \u201cWe have a few seniors like that, who I\u2019d characterize in a positive way as grinders. But he can create as well.\u201d OH, YEAH, HOCKEY Branca\u2019s centering pass found Graham Kreppein in front to put preseason No. 3 Darien ahead 2-1. That was the second of four see-saw goals in 2:33 and the first of three goals in 61 seconds. Greenwich, fifth in the preseason GameTimeCT Top 10 Poll, led 1-0 after one. Henry Gregory tied it on a rebound late in the second. Darien went ahead. Nate Duffy (whose big first-period hit had forced a turnover and set up Price\u2019s goal) tied it again. And off the faceoff, a Greenwich defender fell, and freshman Jack Collins took advantage to score the winner. Chris Davis, Collins\u2019 fellow fourth-line forward, scored in the third. \u201cThis is more of a depth year,\u201d said Budd, whose team is 3-0-1. \u201cWe have four lines and six (defenseman) we roll, and we certainly got a good contribution from all of the lines.\u201d NEARLY SAVED Greenwich goalie Cole Studwell made 45 saves. \u201cHe played great. Shots were pretty lopsided,\u201d Greenwich coach Jack Duffy said. \u201cHe played great game. It could\u2019ve been a different score without him.\u201d The Cardinals fell to 1-3, the three losses in a row, but the coach thought his team\u2019s compete level was raised from shutout losses to Fairfield Prep and Xavier. QUOTABLE This outdoor game was, Budd said, former Cardinals coach \u201cChris Rurak\u2019s baby.\u201d Rurak died in 2020. \u201cI\u2019m very grateful to him for creating the experience, which is a great hockey day for all of our kids,\u201d Budd said. \u201cThey circle the date every year.\u201d This story has been updated to correct the name of Darien\u2019s Chris Davis. firstname.lastname@example.org; @fornabaioctp DARIEN 4, GREENWICH 2 DARIEN0 3 1\u20144 GREENWICH1 1 0\u20142 Records: Darien 3-0-1; Greenwich 1-3-0. Goals: D\u2014Henry Gregory, Graham Kreppein, Jack Collins, Chris Davis; G\u2014Jackson Price, Nate Duffy. Assists: D\u2014Aidan Elders, Bobby Whittaker, Billy Branca, Aidan Amirsakis, Ryan Spengler; G\u2014Will Duncan. Goalies: D\u2014Chris Schofield (16 saves); G\u2014Cole Studwell (45). Shots: D\u201449; G\u201418.