Paul lifts Wreckers past Newtown
Updated 5:05 pm, Tuesday, May 15, 2012
Led by a shutdown defensive effort and plenty of offensive fireworks from Peter Paul, the Staples boys lacrosse team did something on Saturday it had not done in four previous chances -- defeat an out-of-conference opponent.
The Wreckers won their first open-date game of the season, posting an 8-5 victory at defending SWC champion Newtown.
Staples had come close before, including a triple overtime setback to Glastonbury. This time, the Wreckers prevailed by fighting back for a second-half lead and fending off their counterparts.
The outcome of this game was very much in question until the final minutes. Staples trailed 5-4 early in the third quarter before getting the game's last four goals and holding the hosts scoreless for the final 22 minutes.
Paul scored five times and the defense held a normally potent Newtown offense in check for much of the afternoon. The Nighthawks were limited to their second-lowest goal total of the campaign, and held to single-digit scoring for only the sixth time. Staples improved to 8-7 overall heading into Wednesday's regular season finale against Danbury. Newtown, meanwhile, fell to 12-3 overall.
Newtown went ahead with 10:38 to play in the third quarter, but Colin Bannon tied the game 5-5 about a minute later. The go-ahead and first insurance tally were recorded only game time seconds apart. Bannon scored his second goal of the day with just 33 seconds remaining in the third for a 6-5 Staples lead. Paul scored off a rebound of a shot by Quinn Mendelson only 38 seconds into the fourth quarter for a two-goal advantage. That seventh goal was set up by a defensive stop and Staples moving the ball well in transition. Jake Frimet capped off the scoring by racing around from behind the goal and whipping home a shot with 9:29 to play.
The Nighthawks had chances to claw back to within striking distance but Staples goaltender Cole Gendels made several key stops, including one on Jake Ball from point-blank range with four-plus minutes left on the clock.
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"We needed a win like this going into the end of the season to give us a lot of momentum going into states and FCIACs," said Paul, referring to the said Paul, who was referring to the FCIAC Tournament which gets underway May 19, and ensuing state tourney.
Led by Paul's high-scoring ways, the Wreckers were able to offset two tallies apiece by Newtown's Brendan McNamara and Justin Brophy, and one net-finder off the stick of Cory Fisher. Just playing tough non-FCIAC teams is a winning scenario for the Wreckers as they test themselves and try improve heading toward the postseason. But the win felt good for a team that has been trying to find a way to overcome a non conference foe throughout the spring.
"Very big, yes," Staples Coach Paul McNulty said of his team prevailing. "That was a great win."
One of the keys to the Staples triumph was ball control. The Wreckers, led by Adam Levinson's seven ground ball scoops, compiled 38 ground ball pickups. Newtown mustered 22 grounders. Both goaltenders came up with big saves, as Staples' Cole Gendels made 11 saves and Evan Isaacs made 12 stops at the other end of the field.
The Wreckers forced Newtown to cough up the ball at times, but Newtown Coach Glenn Adams said his team didn't do a good job of holding onto the ball. "We just didn't value the ball when it came down to it. We had too many unforced errors. We just threw the ball away on defense, offense. And when you give a team like that too many opportunities you're just not going to come out on top," Adams said.
McNulty was particularly pleased with the performance of his defenders and noted that the offense got the job done to help pull out the win. "When they got their chances, and were patient, they did very well," McNulty said.
Andy Hutchison is a correspondent located in Fairfield County.