Boys lacrosse: Wilton surges by Rams to reach semifinals
The Wilton Warriors went into the FCIAC tournament with a bit of a chip on their shoulders.
The conference ranks its playoffs team based on a vote of the eight head coaches in the tournament, and when this year’s seeds were announced, the Warriors were ranked fifth, lower than they expected.
So they took matters into their own hands and defeated the fourth-seeded New Canaan Rams, 9-7, in the quarterfinals Saturday afternoon at Dunning Field.
It was a little redemption, as well a little revenge for a 9-8 loss suffered on that same field in the opening week of the season.
“We knew we could do it from the start,” Wilton goalie Andrew Calabrese said. “Getting the five seed made us mad because we didn’t think we deserved it. Clearly, we didn’t. New Canaan played great but we came out on the higher end this time.”
New Canaan scored the only three goals of the second quarter to take a 5-3 lead at halftime, but the Warriors reversed the momentum with five unanswered goals to begin the second half. Connor Drake netted the last of goal in that run, making it 8-5 with 4:33 remaining.
After New Canaan’s Graham Braden broke the Rams’ slide on a goal with 2:32 remaining, Wilton’s Peter Koch answered and Wilton held on to win by two.
Fifth-seeded Wilton will now take on top-seeded Darien in the FCIAC semifinals at 7:30 p.m., Tuesday at Brien McMahon High School. No. 2 Greenwich will face No. 3 Ridgefield in the early semifinal game at 5 p.m.
Wilton lost to Darien, 11-4, back in April but the Warriors are ready for a rematch.
“We’ve got confidence,” Calabrese said. “We just beat another good team. You’ve got to respect your opponent, always. They’re the No. 1 team in the nation and they haven’t lost in how long, so it’ll be a good game.”
Joe Murtha led Wilton’s offense with a hat trick and one assist; Kieran McGovern scored twice; and Calabrese had eight saves. Drake had a goal and an assist, and Brian Calabrese, Koch, and Zachary Zeyher each scored once.
New Canaan had a solid game from Braden, who had a hat trick, and goalie Drew Morris, who collected nine saves. Ryan O’Connell scored twice; Quintin O’Connell and James Crovatto each scored once, and Jackson Appelt had an assist.
Defensively, the Warriors, who featured long poles Tyler Previte, Ryan Schriber, and Andrew Hoffman, did a great job keeping the Rams’ powerful offense in check. New Canaan did not score for more than 23 minutes when the Warriors took control.
“They always play great,” Calabrese said of the defense. “They came out today, they played, and it went our way, especially when we were a man down and they were a man up, everyone saw the ball and everyone was playing well.”
The two teams traded goals in the first quarter, with Wilton building a 3-2 lead on two goals by Murtha, and one from McGovern.
New Canaan’s Ryan O’Connell took a feed from Appelt and fired in an underhand shot 2:19 into the second quarter, tying the game at 3-3.
Quintin O’Connell put the Rams ahead, 4-3, at 6:26, and long pole defenseman James Crovatto rushed up the sideline and scored at 9:46 to make it a 5-3 advantage.
New Canaan had the momentum at the time, but Wilton turned the tables in the second half.
McGovern closed the deficit at 3:06 of the third quarter, and Murtha tied the score less than two minutes later. Zeyher’s goal at 6:38 put the Warriors ahead 6-5, and they did not relinquish the lead.
The defenses clamped down over the next 12 minutes, but the Warriors’ Brian Calabrese and Drake scored back-to-back in a 31-second span to make it 8-5 with 4:33 remaining.
Braden scored with 2:32 on the clock, ending a scoring drought of more than 23 minutes for the Rams and cutting the gap to 8-6.
Koch answered with Wilton’s ninth goal and Braden scored his third with 47.3 seconds remaining, but the Warriors ended it there.