Boys lacrosse: Cheshire denies Wilton trip to title game with 15-14 semifinal win

The Wilton High boys lacrosse team’s hopes of playing in the Class L championship game were dashed on Wednesday night, as the Warriors fell just short in a wild 15-14 loss to Cheshire in the semifinals at Fairfield University.

In what was a game of runs, the key run of the night came midway through the second half when the Rams scored four straight goals — the last three all man-up — to turn a 12-11 deficit into a 15-12 lead early in the fourth quarter.

Brian Calabrese answered with two goals for the Warriors. The second goal — a snipe into the top right corner of the cage — cut the lead to 15-14 with 4:20 left in the game.

The next few minutes saw Wilton turn the ball over twice, but the Warriors were able to pressure Cheshire into turnovers on the other end to regain possession, leading to some good scoring chances down the stretch.

With 50 seconds left, Calabrese hit Kieran McGovern on a cut down the middle, but Cheshire goalie Peter Brown made a huge save on the point-blank shot. Wilton had one more chance in the final seconds, but a pass into the crease was deflected and picked up by Cheshire.

The sixth-seeded Warriors finished the season at 15-6. Seventh-seeded Cheshire (16-5) moves on to play Darien in the finals on Saturday.

“We told them at the beginning of the year, ‘you have every ounce of ability to be playing on June 10’,” said Cheshire head coach Rich Pulisciano. “I”m just so proud of these guys. They work extremely hard. These kids deserve it.”

Pulisciano felt the Rams played well in every phase of the game — on defense, in goal, clearing, taking care of the ball. He was particularly pleased with the team’s poise on offense. It was only the second time all season Wilton’s allowed more than 12 goals.

“I think once our offense got the ball, we controlled it, we took smart shots. Our offense, when they get the ball, they can move the ball around and score,” he said. “They’re experienced kids, and they’re patient.”

“(Cheshire) came to play. Hats off to them,” said Wilton head coach John Wiseman, who was unhappy with what he felt was poor officiating in the game.

“I don’t want to take anything away from Cheshire. They had the same set of officials. They played a hard game. They won. They came ready. They earned it,” he said.

Wiseman said one result of the officials’ not controlling the play was an illegal hit on Wilton FOGO Chris Sweeney that knocked him out of the game in the second quarter.

The Warriors started slowly and had multiple turnovers in the first quarter, which helped Cheshire jump out to a 3-0 lead less than four minutes into the contest. Wilton came back with a 3-0 run, with goals by Peter Koch, Joe Murtha and Connor Drake, and the game was tied 4-4 with 1:31 left in the quarter when McGovern scored in front off a feed from Koch.

Timothy Hoynes scored on a low shot from 10 yards out with eight seconds left to give Cheshire a 5-4 lead after one.

The Rams made it 6-4 early in the second quarter on a man-down goal, taking a Wilton turnover the length of the field — the result being a wide-open shot for long-pole Colin Fanning. John Raba scored in front off a feed from behind the net by Sean Black to make it 7-4 with 9:33 left in the period.

Sweeney won the ensuing face-off but was leveled on a blindside hit after passing the ball and was on the ground for several minutes before walking off the field. He did not return to action.

Cheshire was charged with a two-minute, non releasable penalty, and Liam Rance scored the man-up goal off a feed from behind the goal by McGovern, making it 7-5 at the 8:22 mark. The Warriors scored again just 19 seconds later, after a double team at midfield by AJ Hoffman and Joe Scarfi led to a turnover, with Drake scoring from the side of the goal off an assist by McGovern.

Still playing man up, the Warriors had a chance to tie the game but threw the ball away. Brian Weyrauch then was able to split two defenders and score on the run from 10 yards out for Cheshire’s second man-down goal of the period, making it 8-6 with 7:03 left in the half.

The Rams went up 9-6 on a man-up goal about a minute later, as Black passed from behind the net to a wide-open Hoynes, and Raba scored on a low shot from the side of the net to extend the lead to 10-6 with 4:09 left in the half.

Drake found the back of the net on an isolation play to cut the lead to 10-7 at the 2:29 mark, and the Rams took that lead into halftime.

Hoynes scored off an unsettled situation 1:21 into the third quarter to put Cheshire up 11-7, but Wilton made it 11-8 with 9:15 left in the period when Murtha circled from behind the net to score from the side for a man-up goal.

That was the start of a 5-0 run that would give the Warriors their first lead of the game.

McGovern scored on a great spin move at the side of the net, shooting as he was falling to the ground, to make it 11-9 at the 8:06 mark.

A Wilton penalty gave Cheshire the extra-man opportunity, but Andrew Calabrese came up with a big save on a close-range shot to deny the Rams. As the penalty expired, Jason Spaulding came back onto the field and came up from behind the ball handler to check the ball away. He scooped up the ball and went the other way, leading to a fastbreak goal by Drake, off a feed from McGovern. That made it 11-10 with 5:50 left in the quarter.

Scarfi won the draw and took off to the goal, setting up another goal by Drake that tied the score at 12-12. Scarfi then did it again, winning the draw and taking the ball to the cage, only this time scoring himself for Wilton’s third goal in a span of 14 seconds. That put the Warriors up 12-11 with 5:36 left in the third quarter.

Michael Jeffery tied the game again, 12-12, less than a minute later.

Wilton was called for three penalties — two slashing calls, one cross checking call — over the final four minutes of the third quarter, all leading to Cheshire goals. The first, with 2:51 left in the quarter, came on a high bullet by Ryan Lindsey, which put the Rams up for good, 13-12. Hoynes scored in traffic in front with 30 seconds left, off a pinpoint feed by Raba, to make it 14-12.

Jeffery than found Raba wide open on the backside of the Wilton defense for a goal with 10:15 left to play, making it 15-12. Brian Calabrese’s goals at 9:07 and 4:20 (man up) got Wilton to within a goal, but the Warriors couldn’t get any closer.

Drake led Wilton with four goals and one assist, while McGovern had two goals and three assists and Murtha two goals and two assists. Calabrese also scored twice, with single goals by Koch, Rance, Scarfi and Nolan Quinn. Koch and Scarfi each had an assist.

Andrew Calabrese finished with six saves in goal.

For Cheshire, Hoynes had five goals and Raba had three goals and two assists. Jeffery scored two goals and had two assists and Lindsey had two goals and one assist. Black finished with a goal and three assists, with single goals by Weyrauch and Fanning. Brown finished with 12 saves in goal.