Rams top Wilton, 11-7, in boys lax state semis (updated)
The Wilton High boys lacrosse team was hoping that the third time it faced New Canaan would be the proverbial charm.
But the Rams weren't playing along. In fact, they were playing ahead for most of Wednesday night's Class M state semifinal game at Brien McMahon High School in Norwalk.
Opening an early lead, and then pulling away after a Wilton surge, second-seed New Canaan defeated 19th-seed Wilton, 11-7, and advanced to the Class M championship game Saturday against Daniel Hand at McMahon (10:30 a.m.).
Going into the game, Wilton head Coach John Wiseman knew it was going to be a battle between the two storied programs, and that his team had to give him a near perfect performance to play for the Class M title.
“It was a hard fought battle, as I expected," said Wiseman, whose team ended the season with a 10-10 record. "I am very proud of how my team played tonight and what we accomplished this season. These kids played with a lot of heart and pride.
"We didn’t get off to a good start; we had some challenges clearing the ball and they made us pay for that," added Wiseman. "They (New Canaan) had good team speed that caused problems for us. But my guys fought back from the early deficit and they did their best to try to chip away at New Canaan’s lead.
Wilton’s RJ Romeo won the game’s opening face-off and the Warriors controlled the ball for pretty much the first three minutes of the contest, but had nothing to show for their efforts. However, once the Rams were able to mount an organized rush up the field, they put three goals in the back of the net in less than a two-minute span.
Peter Swindell scored the game’s first goal with 8:26 to go in the first quarter, getting an open look for the score. Michael Kraus picked up a loose ball in front of the Warrior goal and deposited it for a score just 1:12 later, and Justin Meichner closed out the trio of goals with 6:32 left in the first period.
Wilton finally got on the board with 5:16 remaining in the first, when Michael Lynch found Harrison Koch for a goal to cut the lead to 3-1.
New Canaan regained its three-goal advantage less than a minute later when Ryan O’Connell passed from behind the Warrior net to Kyle Smith for the score and a 4-1 Ram lead.
Harrison Koch scored again for the Warriors with 1:58 left in the period to cut New Canaan's lead to 4-2 after one quarter. Koch beat him his man while circling in from behind the net.
The scoring flurry continued in the second quarter with Wilton tallying the first two goals of the period to tie the game at 4-4 with 7:25 left before halftime. Reid Melillo, assisted by Lynch got the Warriors to within one at 4-3, and then Harrison Koch’s third goal of the game tied the score at 4-4. Koch was left unmarked in front of the net, and Harrison Bardwell’s pass from the side found him open for the tying goal.
The game remained knotted at 4-4 until O’Connell scored for New Canaan with 4:33 left in the first half. The Rams went on to net three more goals to take a 8-4 lead into halftime. Meichner accounted for two of the scores, which came 12 seconds apart, and Kraus had the final goal of the first half.
The scoring slowed in the second half, but it was the Warriors cutting the Rams lead to 8-5 with 2:31 to play in the third quarter. Charlie McGovern scored after a long Warrior possession, assisted by Lynch. McGovern, who had been averaging about four goals a game over the last seven games, was held in check by the New Canaan defense.
But Swindell put a low shot into the Wilton goal with 1:10 left in the third, giving his team another four goal advantage at 9-5, and this time the Warriors were not able do anything to chip away at the lead.
Kraus upped the Rams' lead to 10-5 with his third goal of the game with 3.6 ticks left on the third-period clock.
The Warriors showed no quit, and Melillo’s second goal of the game with 9:14 to play gave his team some hope, making the score 10-6. But Kraus netted his fourth goal of the game on a man-advantage situation with 4:45 to play before Wilton's Lynch scored the game's final goal with 3:52 to play.
From there, New Canaan preserved its 11-7 lead, as three late penalties hurt Wilton’s comeback chances.