Boys lacrosse: Murtha's OT goal sends Warriors past Cards, 8-7

This afternoon’s boys lacrosse game between the Wilton Warriors and the Greenwich Cardinals at Fujitani Field turned into an instant FCIAC classic, as both teams battled for the 48 minutes of regulation and another two minutes of overtime and the Wilton crowd rolled with action.

The Warriors never led until the final whistle sounded. The game was tied four times and Greenwich led by one goal seven times and by two goals three times.

Wilton’s Joe Murtha banged home the game winner for the Warriors with 2:20 remaining in the overtime period, assisted by Brian Calabrese, for the 8-7 win.

Chris Sweeney won the overtime faceoff for the Warriors, but the Warriors turned the ball over on the possession, opening the door for Greenwich. The Cardinals gave the ball back to Wilton shortly after, as they miss-handled the ball. The ball came to Brian Calabrese behind the Cardinals’ net, and he fed it to Murtha, who was crashing toward the goal unmarked.

“I saw a crease and that their defense was unsettled and looking around as to who to cover and they left me open. I moved toward the goal and Brian (Calabrese) got the ball to me,” said Murtha.  “The goalie was right-handed and I was on the right side with the ball in my net low to the ground. I knew I had to go into the upper left corner so I quickly had to change the plain to get the ball up high for the shot.”

Murtha’s winning goal was the only time the Warriors had the lead as they had to play from behind the entire contest.

“We stayed focused and rallied for the win. We came out today and were rushing our shots and not settling into an offensive rhythm,” he said. “We showed a lot of heart as a team and pushed ourselves for the 48-plus minutes.”

Wilton tied the game at 6-6 on a man-advantage goal with 3:09 to play in regulation, as Connor Drake netted the score, assisted by Murtha.

With 1:32 to play, Jack Freda (three goals in the game) scored a shorthanded goal for Greenwich to put the Cardinals back up 7-6. On the play Wilton was hit with a non-releasable penalty, forcing the Warriors to play a man down the rest of the regulation.

Greenwich, who clearly won the game’s possession time, as they used a lot of the clock on their offensive sets, gained possession of the ball and was content to run out the clock.

But with just over 30 seconds left in regulation. Andrew Calabrese, the Warriors’ goalie, picked off a Cardinal pass, giving the home team the ball. The Warriors, who was still down a man, took a timeout to set their offense. The game plan was to get the ball to Drake, but he couldn’t get a good look at the goal, so he passed to Peter Koch, who found the back of the net with 13.4 left on the clock.

“We came out a little amped up for the game because the team was excited to take on Greenwich and we didn’t play as well as I hoped,” said Wilton head coach John Wiseman. “Greenwich held the ball and was being patient on offense, as they didn’t want a high-scoring game. We made some mental errors, but the kids showed grit and came back and fought to the end. The team gave a lot of effort today and stuck with it. Over the past few years we’ve been losing these close one-goal games and games that go into overtime, so today it was great to get a win.”

Greenwich tallied the first two goals of the game for a 2-0 lead with 4:19 to play in the first quarter. The Cardinals’ opening goal just trickled in over the goal line. Wilton first score came off the stick of Kieran McGovern, assisted by Drake. Greenwich led 2-1 after one.

Greenwich took a 3-1 lead early in the second period on Freda’s first goal of the game. Wilton got it back to a one-goal lead at 3-2 with 3:31 to play until halftime on a score by Koch, assisted by Drake.

Greenwich held a 3-2 lead at the half.

Wilton knotted the score at 3-3 with 10:22 left in the third quarter on an unassisted goal by Drake, who circled in from behind the net, guessed right on his turn toward the net and fired home the goal.

Greenwich’s Zach Tucker was left wide open in front of the net to put the Cardinals back ahead 4-3 with 5:27 remaining in the period. Matthew Baugher’s second goal of the game upped the Greenwich lead to 5-3 with 1:25 left in the third quarter.

Wilton got one back with just 5.7 seconds  remaining in the period as Brian Calabrese passed to McGovern, who was on the doorstep. McGovern took the high pass and in one motion flicked into the goal for the 5-4 score as the period came to a close.

Brian Calabrese tied the game at 5-5 just 41 seconds into the fourth quarter, assisted by Murtha. The tying score came as the result of the hard work by McGovern, weaving his way through defenders and his ability to maintain possession of the ball after being fouled (delayed penalty). McGovern got the ball to Murtha, who found Calabrese for the score.

The win puts the Warriors record at 3-1 early in the season, while the loss drops Greenwich to 4-2.

In Wilton’s previous three games this season, one player collected three or more goals in those contests. But today the Warriors got balanced scoring as three players — Drake, Koch, and Brian Calabrese — each collected two goals apiece.

Wilton’s Sweeney was nine-for-18 against Bailey Savio in the faceoff circle. Savio is rated one of the top FOGO’s in the state. Andrew Calabrese, in addition to his key intercepted pass, collected seven saves in net for the Warriors.