The New Canaan boys lacrosse team has big designs for the postseason, including a highly-anticipated FCIAC playoff meeting with the Darien Blue Wave.
The Wilton Warriors did their best to ruin the Rams’ plans.
Wilton got off to a strong start and led early in the second half before four unanswered goals put New Canaan in front for good, and the Rams edged the Warriors, 10-9, in an FCIAC quarterfinal game Friday at Dunning Field.
The Warriors made one last push with two goals in the final 2:17, including one from Harrison Koch with 12.6 remaining. They even had possession of the ball with 8.1 on the clock, but the New Canaan defense held them off as time expired.
“At that point, you’re not looking at the clock, you’re looking to just get the ball and run,” Ram senior co-captain Michael Kraus said of the final moments. “Don’t make any mistakes and just keep running with it.”
The game represented a huge turnaround from the historical rivals’ early-season contest, when second-seeded New Canaan won in a rout, 14-3.
This time, the seventh-seeded Warriors clearly came to play.
“It was a dogfight all the way,” Wilton head coach John Wiseman said. “They pulled away with a couple. Lacrosse is a game of streaks, which is what you saw. You’re never out and the kids fought hard.
“We had plenty of chances and so did they. We’d love to have some of back, and so would they. It’s a one-goal game.”
The New Canaan victory set up a showdown with Darien in the FCIAC semifinals, set for 5 p.m., Tuesday, at Brien McMahon High School. Darien, the No. 3 seed, was a 17-6 winner over Staples on Friday.
Darien beat New Canaan three times last season, including twice in overtime, but the Rams won the regular season meeting, 9-8, a few weeks ago.
“We can’t wait,” Kraus said. “This will be the last time our seniors get to play them because they’re not in our state class, so we’re fired up for that. It’ll be a great one.”
In the meantime, the Rams will enjoy their one-goal win over a tough Witon squad.
New Canaan (14-3) had a couple of hat tricks, as Kraus and senior co-captain Justn Meichner each had three goals and one assist. Peter Swindell, Kyle Smith, Max Begoon and Ryan O’Connell each found the net once. Goalie Drew Morris was impressive with 10 saves.
For Wilton (7-9), senior Charles McGovern led the offense with a game-high four goals. Harrison Bardwell scored twice and had two assists, and Koch, Michael Lynch and Rocco Romeo each scored once, with Koch also dishing one assist. Goalie Jameson Hill made 10 saves in a solid defensive performance.
Hill made several of those stops on tough shots in the first quarter when Lynch and McGovern netted the only goals to give the Warriors a 2-0 lead.
Kraus got New Canaan started with a goal 1:03 into the second quarter, and then made a great feed to Begoon charging through the middle to tie the score at 2-2 with 8:29 remaining in the half.
McGovern put Wilton back in front when he went to the top right corner to beat Morris for his second goal, but the Rams’ Meichner and O’Connell scored the last two goals of the quarter to give New Canaan its first lead, 4-3, at halftime.
McGovern came out with the hot hand in the third quarter, scoring 20 seconds after the opening faceoff, and then again at 1:52, pushing the Warriors ahead at 5-4.
“We just played hard and moved off the ball,” Wiseman said. “They’re a good defensive team and they press out, so when they do that, you just have to move off the ball, which I thought we did a good job of.”
Trailing by one, New Canaan got in gear offensively and scored four straight goals, catching the Warriors in transition.
Kraus started the rally at the 5:00 mark, Swindell scored off a turnover 22 seconds later, and Meichner made a spin move for the next tally at 6:36. Smith then dumped a low shot past Hill for n 8-5 advantage with 3:49 to play in the third.
Romeo stopped the run with 2:18 remaining in the quarter, but New Canaan carried an 8-6 lead into the fourth.
Goals by Meichner and Kraus sandwiched around a goal for Bardwell made it a 10-7 game with 2:50 to play. The final goal by Kraus came after some nice ball movement, as the Rams aimed at taking a top shot.
“We’ve been working offensively on getting the best shot for the unit,” Kraus said. “The last goal that we had, we had three or four dodges right before the one that I scored. Guys could’ve taken shots, but they just pulled it out and waited for the open shot. That’s what we worked on today and that’s what helped us win.”
Wilton still had life left, as Bardwell netted his second of the quarter and made it 10-8 with 2:17 to go. Koch’s goal with 12.6 seconds remaining made the closing moments of the game tense ones.
“They played a heckuva game,” Kraus said. “They came out really fast, really strong in the beginning and went up a few goals. They did a really good job getting on to us in the beginning, but coach told us to just relax and we stuck it out till the end.”