Schools Sports

Shaffer’s 4 Straight Goals Carry Conard Over Hall

Hall goalie Andy McMullon covers the ball ahead of Conard's Brady Cersosimo. Hall vs. Conard boys lacrosse. May 16, 2024. Photo credit: Paul Palmer

Hall hosted crosstown West Hartford rival Conard in boys lacrosse on Thursday night.

Sports reporting is sponsored by Keating Agency Insurance

Conard players celebrate the goal against Hall. Hall vs. Conard boys lacrosse. May 16, 2024. Photo credit: Paul Palmer

By Paul Palmer

For the first 30:04 it had all the things you would expect from any matchup in any sport between Hall and Conard: total effort, scoring, good defense, hitting (where allowed), teamwork, and a desire from both sides to win the game. After that it was Conard, led by Luke Shaffer’s four straight goals in a span of 5:47 spanning the third and fourth periods, that turned things in the Red Wolves favor as they went on to a 13-6 win.

“This feels especially good,” said Shaffer, who was part of Conard’s State Championship hockey team. “They beat us in hockey so this meant a little more because of that.”

Luke Shaffer would convert on his 1-on-1 opportunity. Hall vs. Conard boys lacrosse. May 16, 2024. Photo credit: Paul Palmer

The visiting Red Wolves got things going early when Liam Alver hit a crossbar, then Shaffer was stopped by Hall goalie Andy McMullon, and then at 7:21 of the first it was Brady Cersosimo taking a cross crease pass and scoring. That goal got the Titans engaged as they pounded the Conard goal but Brayden Mangini stood tall with big saves, especially on Wells Gengras after a turnover and then denying Michael Griffin-Prado.

With 3:03 to play, senior captain Jules Capone made it a 2-0 game.

Hall had possession in the Conard zone and took a timeout shortly after the Capone goal. Coming out of that it was Bode Smith scoring the first of his two goals in the first half. While being marked wide of the net, Smith carried the ball, shielding off a defender, across the top of the goal about 20 yards out. He then lowered his shoulder and cut in and used a bounce shot to beat Mangini.

Will Hall looks to redirect Hall ball carrier Wells Gengras. Hall vs. Conard boys lacrosse. May 16, 2024. Photo credit: Paul Palmer

Trailing by one in the second, Hall ‘s attempted clear from the defensive zone was picked off by Will Hall near midfield. He sprinted into the attacking zone and worked a perfect give-and-go with Will Keever to score just 2:05 in to make it 3-1 Conard. The Red Wolves kept up the pressure and McMullon was forced to make a 1-on-1 save on Cersosimo and again just 27 seconds later.

Ben Goldstein of Hall works through the Brady Cersosimo pressure. Hall vs. Conard boys lacrosse. May 16, 2024. Photo credit: Paul Palmer

With his team down a man, McMullon came up big on a Jordan Lawson bid. Trailing by two it was Hall that would get the next goal when a Conard player went for the interception of a pass on defense and missed. Smith was on the other end of the pass, raced toward the goal, and netted it to make it just a one-goal lead for Conard at 5:14.

With just under a minute to go, Conard’s Will Hall intercepted a cross field pass by the Titans deep in their attacking zone. He outraced defenders down the field and found Cersosimo alone to the right of McMullon. Cersosimo outwaited the goalie and when McMullon went low anticipating the shot, Cersosimo deposited it upstairs to make it 4-2. That would be the score at the end of the first 24:00.

Hall and Conard players pile up behind the Red Wolves’ net.Hall vs. Conard boys lacrosse. May 16, 2024. Photo credit: Paul Palmer

The start of the second half saw Griffin-Prado with a great solo effort from the top of the attacking zone. He cut around the edge of a defender and fired home a goal at 8:48 to make it a 4-3 game.

Three minutes later came what ended up being the turning point in the game. Alver  scored what appeared to be Conard’s fifth goal, but amidst the celebration, Hall’s coach called for a stick check on Alver. “I noticed his stick earlier in the game,” said Hall coach Keith Blum of Alver. “I waited for him to score.”

The officials did just that and ruled it illegal, earning him a one-minute penalty and wiping his goal off the board. Conard killed off the penalty and then Shaffer went on his four-goal run to put the game away. “We’ve faded in a lot of games and we knew we couldn’t do that after that call,” Shaffer said. His goalie, Mangini, was a little blunter about the impact of the rarely-used call. “That got us mad, but we just got back on the field and then scored,” Mangini said.

Jules Capone (24), Seamus Tracy (17) and goalie Brayden Mangini manage to knock the ball from Bode Smith of Hall. Hall vs. Conard boys lacrosse. May 16, 2024. Photo credit: Paul Palmer

It took Shaffer just 18 seconds after the penalty ended to get his first. Just under two minutes later came his second goal off a pair of heads up moves by teammates. Will Hall picked up a ground ball and sprinted into the attacking zone. He saw Cersosimo unmarked near the far side of the cage, he launched a pass to him and drew the defense that way. Cersosimo saw Shaffer standing on the other side of the crease and flipped a pass to him for the easy goal to make it 6-3.

Following a save by Mangini that saw Connor Russell’s screen shot slam off his facemask and bound away, Hall would go down a man with just :09 to go in the third. Conard just ran the clock out and prepared for the man advantage to start the fourth with the three-goal lead.

Just as the penalty was ending, Shaffer took a feed from behind the net and scored his third straight goal. With 10:39 to go, Shaffer would pay the price to score his fourth of the game. As he carried the ball around arc he was getting stick checked over and over until he put his head down and charged toward the net, firing in his team’s eighth goal, and giving out a shout in celebration.

The two sides would trade goals in a six second span starting at 8:49 before Conard once again put together a series of passes to make it a six-goal lead. It started with Capone carrying the ball downfield and finding Shaffer near the goal who ripped a pass over to Alver and this one counted. Forty seconds later, it was Hall’s Russell scoring from about 15 yards out when he ripped a shot from a pass from McGowan, but just :24 later Conard got the six-goal margin back when Aiden Emery scored.

Alver would get the next one for Conard with just 3:41 to go and then it would be Nolan Trent getting the Red Wolves 13th and final goal. He took a pass with his back to the goal and spun and let the shot go – setting off a celebration with teammates.

Nick Katsaros of Conard and a teammate sandwich Hall’s Gavin Sortman at midfield. Hall vs. Conard boys lacrosse. May 16, 2024. Photo credit: Paul Palmer

With just :35 to go , Gengras would get the game’s final goal when he scored for Hall, making it 13-6.

“I feel sad for our seniors,” said Titans’ coach Blum. “I’m disappointed because I know we are a better team than what we played in the second half.”

On the other side there was celebration and appreciation for what had been accomplished. “I have no words,” said Mangini. “This is our first win over them since my freshman year. I wouldn’t want to do this with any other group of guys.”

Both coaches agreed that Conard’s ability to capitalize in the transition was the key to victory. Despite the back-and-forth nature of the opening half, Conard head coach Matt Cersosimo said his players believed what they had been telling them all year. “We get into these games and we talk about riding the waves and staying consistent,” he said.

The win also is something of a milestone for Conard as it is their 10th on the year (against six losses) and may be enough to keep them from having to win a play-in game and may also give them a home game to open the Class L playoffs later this month. “It is all about our senior leadership,” the coach said. “ Since day one  it has been fun watching them every day.”

As for Hall (6-8), they have one more game on the 20th at East Catholic. The Titans, too, have clinched a post-season birth in the Class L Tournament but are hoping to avoid having to play an opening round play-in game.

Jules Capone (24), Seamus Tracy (17) and goalie Brayden Mangini manage to knock the ball from Bode Smith of Hall. Hall vs. Conard boys lacrosse. May 16, 2024. Photo credit: Paul Palmer

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