WESTPORT -- Staples senior goalkeeper James Hickok has stymied New Canaan enough in the past that hardly anyone on the Rams' roster expected to score on a point-blank shot. The Rams' head coach Victor Sanchez had his doubts, as did defensive midfielder Keith Griffin.
Still, that uncertainty didn't stop the Rams from trying.
Griffin blasted a shot from the top of the box past Hickok with 16:08 left in the second half to force a 2-2 draw between the New Canaan and Staples boys soccer teams on Monday at Loeffler Field.
"They have shown me that they can score from anywhere," Sanchez said. "I'll be honest with you, I didn't foresee us scoring against Hickok in the middle of the field at all, point blank. Nonetheless, we still needed to take our opportunities when we had them."
New Canaan rallied from 2-0 down late in the first half to move to 9-3-3 (30 points), and remain in the sixth spot in the eight-team FCIAC playoff field. The draw locked up a tournament berth for Staples (9-4-2, 29 points), which sits in seventh place with one match remaining.
"We could see New Canaan again, we could see Greenwhich again, we could see anybody again, and those games don't go 80 minutes and a tie," Staples head coach Dan Woog said. "They go right to the end. We've just got to be a winner the next time."
Staples went ahead 1-0 in the 11th minute on a goal by midfielder Jordan McNair, and gave itself more cushion on the scoreboard less than three minutes later. Forward Noah Bender collected a through ball from Jack Scott and buried a shot past goalkeeper Michael Powell to make it 2-0.
"We were looking at the way New Canaan was playing and we like to spread it out," Woog said. "We're not a long ball team but if that's what it takes and it's on, then we'd be silly not to take it."
The Wreckers held a 7-5 edge in shots in the first half and 16-7 for the match, but they were unable to extend their lead any further.
"We had our opportunities to put it away and we didn't," Woog said. "We were generating chances, which is great; we were not finishing them, which is not so great."
The Rams occasionally pressured Staples' back line following that goal, but didn't strike again until midway through the second half. Griffin controlled a header on a deflection off the Rams' corner kick and booted a shot inside the left post, out of the reach of Hickok.
"Our coach always tells me to go about five yards outside the box and just get all the garbage," Griffin said. "One of them headed it out and I could tell it had my name on it."
Hickok, who shut out New Canaan both in the regular season and in the FCIAC semifinals on penalty kicks last year, made four saves to preserve the draw.
"We played him twice last year and we couldn't get by him at all," Griffin said. "To score two today, that's a real good sign."
Powell made six saves for New Canaan.
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NEW CANAAN 2, STAPLES 2
NEW CANAAN 1 1--2
STAPLES 2 0--2
Records: New Canaan 9-3-3; Staples 9-4-2.
Goals: NC--Juan Ricardo Deambrosio, Keith Griffin; S--Jordan McNair, Noah Bender. Assists: NC--Robert Valente; S--Yousef Shahin. Goalies: NC--Michael Powell (6 saves); S--James Hickok (4). Shots: NC--7; S--16.