Hall High School boys lacrosse hosted Newington on Wednesday in West Hartford in the first round of the Class L lacrosse tournament.
By Paul Palmer
The opening minutes of Hall’s first round playoff game against Newington didn’t exactly go as planned. But most of the rest of the game did as the Warriors used goals from six different players to advance to the second round of the Class L state lacrosse tourney with a 15-7 win over the Eagles on Wednesday.
The visitors struck just 37 seconds into the game on a fluke play. Hall goalie Campbell Manolis tripped and fell while moving the ball behind his own net. The ball came loose, and Newington jumped on it with Everett Hillman scoring into the empty net.
Moments later, with Newington playing a man up, it was Hillman again, this time scoring from the side of the net and Hall was down a pair, but not worried. “They came out firing,” said Hall coach Jared Krikorian. “We were expecting it and it kind of woke us up.”
Hall would then score four goals on its next four shots and never trailed again in the game.
Hall’s drive began with Luke Duzan scoring the first of his three goals on a nice pass from Matt Farber. On the ensuing faceoff Bode Smith won the draw, and found Duzan who scored his second goal in a 7-second span.
Smith – who is a freshman and did not start the season as the Warriors top faceoff man – was dominant in the circle all day. “He played top notch, today,” said his coach. Smith won nine of 11 faceoffs in the first half alone for Hall, helping to set up the offense.
Hall’s next goal started when defenseman Issac Levine knocked the stick and ball out of the hands of a Newington attacker, and ended with Brooks McConnell’s goal. Over the day McConnell would also pick up five assists.
With 6:41 to play in the first, Teddy Gianoulis found Logan Murphy for the first of his three goals on the day.
“We’ve been focusing on patience and fundamentals as we prepared for this game,” said Kirkorian. “The more patient we are, the better looks we get at goal.”
Hall would combine some solid defense with the patient offense to stay in front. All day the Warrior’s sticks were active, knocking balls away from Newington attackers and leading to offensive chances for Hall at the other end.
One of their toughest tests on the day was containing the scoring of Mike Zapatka. The senior midfielder came into the game with 51 goals for the Indians in 15 games. Zapatka would get his first of the game with just under 2 minutes to play when he beat Manolis with a shot as he moved across the front of the cage. Senior Aidan Guzman would score the first of his three goals for Hall with just 15 seconds left to give Hall the 5-3 lead.
Newington goalie Sam Davies took matters into his own hands as he frequently ventured forward with the ball leading the attack. He also had a rough day in net taking a hard shot to his thigh, later a blistering shot to the helmet, and finally needing to come off for a few plays with a knee injury.
Davies spent much of the second period under fire as Hall upped its offense. After Guzman scored just 41 seconds into the period, Gianoulis would score one of the day’s prettier goals when he took a pass from behind the net from Grant Kanaga, deeked two defenders before scoring Hall’s seventh goal with 9:08 to play.
The balanced scoring attack pleased Kirkorian and made it hard for Newington to try and shut down any one player. “A team effort, with a lot of goal scorers, that’s the best lacrosse and makes us tougher to scout,” Krikorian said.
A scary moment came late in the second when Gianoulis – whose speed led the Hall transition game all day – took a slash to the head and shoulder as he slipped making a dodge. He would be okay, and Hall’s Murphy would score off a scramble in front to make it a 9-3 game at the half.
The third quarter started well for Hall with Guzman scoring less than 2 minutes into the period and then Farber would make it 11-3 with a solid solo effort. The junior took possession of the ball on restart behind the Newington net, drove around a defender and the cage to get an angle and then fired a shot past Davies.
At the other end Hall’s defense kept up its pressure on Newington and especially on Zapatka. Senior defender Kevin Tiernan who was solid again, chopped the stick out of Zapatka’s hands as he was winding up for a shot and helped Hall start a transition the other way. “He’s such a humble kid,” Kirkorian said of his defender. “He’s big but not loud and just plays lockdown.”
Just under halfway through the period, Hall seemed to relax with the 8-goal lead, and Newington took advantage. The Indians used several Hall penalties to build momentum and cut into the lead down to 12-7. “We thought we had it after the first half,” said Kirkorian of his team’s attitude. “Newington did an excellent job of fighting. We have to compete in all four quarters,” he added.
When the fourth period started, it still felt like it was anyone’s game until Hall’s Kanaga scored what was probably the biggest goal of the game to push the lead to 6 before Farber scored with 10:08 left on the clock for the 14-7 lead that restored the Warriors’ confidence.
Newington’s best opportunity in the fourth came with 4:09 to go and Hall took a 2-minute penalty for a hit to the head. Thirty seconds into the advantage, Newington tried to call time out – but they didn’t have any left – and so they not only lost possession of the ball, but also were forced to play a man down. No goals were scored, and Newington went back up a man, but could not convert.
Manolis helped keep the score where it was when he made a strong save on a Zapatka scoring chance with 2:03 left in the game. Hall would add a goal with 1:13 to play to make the final 15-7.
“We were more patient on offense today,” said Kirkorian, whose team is now 12-3 on the season. The Warriors next play on Saturday when they will go on the road and face No. 2 seed and undefeated Amity.
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