NORWALK — With the score tied in the fourth quarter and its state tournament title game against Daniel Hand hanging in the balance, the New Canaan High School boys lacrosse team looked to its seniors for all-important leadership one final time this season.

And as has been the case every time the Rams play for a state championship, the seniors responded in championship fashion.

Finishing with a flurry, fourth-seeded New Canaan scored the game’s final three goals, all of which were tallied by seniors, and captured its third consecutive CIAC Class M championship with an exciting 9-6 victory over 11th-seeded Daniel Hand Saturday at Brien McMahon High School.

The win marked the third straight season the Rams topped the Tigers for the Class M Tournament title.

“It was an incredible year,” New Canaan coach Chip Buzzeo said. “We challenged ourselves playing the schedule we did and we were in every game. The senior class has really helped New Canaan get to the point where we’re considered one of the nation’s best.”

Senior midfielder Ryan O’Connell recorded three goals and one assist, senior attack Richard Magnus tallied twice and senior attackman Jackson Appelt had one goal and three assists to pace the Rams (15-6). Sophomore midfielder Quintin O’Connell also registered one goal and one assist for the victors.

“It feels amazing, it gives me goose bumps to win with these guys, I couldn’t be happier,” said O’Connell, who will play at the University of North Carolina next spring. “I played lacrosse and football with my brother and to win the title with him is a dream come true. We’ve been talking about doing that when we’ve practiced in our backyard for years.”

The Tigers received two goals apiece from junior attack Nate Palumbo and senior attackman Liam Gottlick.

“We had a couple of great opportunities on offense, it just didn’t go our way,” Tigers coach Paul Deon said. “I knew our guys had it in them — from our defense, to our faceoff guy, to our goalie, to our guys on offense. We executed our game plan and we had the looks, but their goalie made some great saves.”

Senior goalie Drew Morris made eight saves for New Canaan, which took the lead for good at 7-6 when senior Graham Braden tallied in transition off a pass from Ryan O’Connell with 6:39 left in the fourth quarter.

“They threw a zone at us, which we knew they were going to do,” Braden said. “We stayed calm, took good shots and relied on good technique.”

Senior Jack Hoelzer’s goal off a feed from Appelt, stretched the Rams’ advantage to 8-6 with 3:28 remaining. With the Rams patiently passing the ball around the perimeter, Appelt put a shot past Tigers sophomore goalie Griffin Fitzmaurice (13 saves), giving New Canaan a 9-6 lead at the 3:28 mark.

“Seniors make plays in the fourth quarter of games like this and our seniors made plays the last quarter of their career,” Buzzeo said.

Trailing 6-3, Daniel Hand scored three straight goals to draw even. Senior midfielder Tanner Garitta tallied off a shot from 45 yards out with one second remaining in the third quarter, making it 6-4.

Gottlick scored on a catch-and-shoot off a pass from sophomore Thomas Swank and Gottlick converted a shot from 25 yards out, knotting the score at 6-6 with 8:04 left in the final quarter.

“I’ve never been so proud of all these guys, being here three times in a row means the world to me,” Garitta said. “I am really going to miss them next year.”

The game was played at the Tigers’ pace. Hand held the possession advantage, thanks to faceoff specialist Mark Hartmann. The junior won 14 of the 18 faceoffs he took.

“We only had possession about 25 percent of the game,” Buzzeo said. “They did a great job of executing their possession game, not giving us a chance to score.”

PLAYER OF THE GAME

Ryan O’Connell: The Rams’ all-time leading scorer sparked his squad early in the game, scoring three of his team’s first four goals.

DYNAMIC DEFENSE

New Canaan was forced to play a lot of defense with Daniel Hand having the ball so much. But seniors Andrew Bauersfeld and James Crovatto and junior Chase Strupp stepped up defensively for the Rams.

“We’ve always taken pride in being a defensive-minded team,” said Crovatto, who has committed to Amherst. “We just try not to do too much. If everyone takes care of their assignment, good things happen.”

GOALIES ON THEIR GAME

Both goalies had their moments in this matchup. Morris made three saves in the first half, then stopped five shots in the second. Fitzmaurice was especially effective in the first half.

“Our defense was great,” the University of Maryland-bound Morris said. “It’s great to play behind all-American and All-State defenders. It makes my job easier.”

QUOTEABLE

“Our team gave it all we could, we fought hard to the end,” Tigers senior Christian Jibilian said. “New Canaan is a powerhouse team and we are here every year competing with them. We’re happy to compete against them.”

“Our defense is the backbone of our team, they have always been,” Ryan O’Connell said. “Hats off to them. They don’t get enough credit for our success.”

dfierro@greenwichtime.com;

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NEW CANAAN 9,

DANIEL HAND 6

DANIEL HAND 2 1 1 2 — 6

NEW CANAAN 3 1 2 3 — 9

Scoring: DH — Nate Palumbo 2 g, 1 a; Liam Gottlick 2 g; Tanner Garrita 1 g; Tommy Swank 1 g; Teg Cosgriff 1 a; Thomas Swank 1 a; NC — Ryan O’Connell 3 g, 1 a; Richard Magnus 2 g; Jackson Appelt 1 g, 3 a; Quintin O’Connell 1 g, 1 a; Jack Hoeltzer 1 g; Graham Braden 1 g; Goalies: DH — Griffin Fitzmaurice (13 saves); NC — Drew Morris (8 saves)

Records: New Canaan (15-6); Daniel Hand (14-8)