It usually takes the New Canaan boys lacrosse team a little time to kick its offense into gear. But once the Rams get things going, it’s usually pretty tough to stop them.
Such was the case Thursday afternoon as New Canaan shrugged off a sluggish start to post a convincing 13-8 victory over a young Greenwich team on the turf at Cardinal Stadium.
Greewnich (4-5), which had won four straight after a four-game losing streak to open the season, jumped out to a 3-1 lead early in the second quarter as the Rams struggled with unforced turnovers.
Senior captain Peter Kraus then gave the Rams just the spark they needed, scoring a short-handed goal while New Canaan was down two men. From that point on, it was all New Canaan (6-3), which scored 11 unanswered goals to take a 12-4 lead going into the fourth quarter.
“We definitely came out flat this game,” said Kraus, who led the Rams offensively with three goals and two assists. “It was a big momentum shift to get that short-handed goal. We kept the momentum the rest of the game.”
Midfielder Matt Blasco was also instrumental in the turnaround, scoring three goals while assisting on the short-handed momentum-swinger by Kraus. Mike Bossidy also had three goals and one assist while goalie Tom Carey made 11 saves to post the victory.
"We just started clicking offensively," Kraus said. "We started playing the offensive game we like to use and we were shooting it well. We weren't missing the cage."
New Canaan didn’t have a sustained offensive possession until the sixth minute of the first quarter, during which the Rams mustered just three shots and one goal by Kraus.
The Rams made up for it with a brilliant second quarter, during which they out-shot Greenwich 15-8, out-scored the Cardinals 6-1 and won 6 of 8 faceoffs behind the play of Bobby Distler.
Once the Rams started catching and moving the ball offensively, things began to click. New Canaan out-shot Greenwich 29-14 over the middle two quarters and out-scored the Cardinals 11-2 over that span.
“We’ve really struggled in the turnover department and that’s really hurt us in games,” New Canaan head coach Alex Whitten said. “In this game, if you look at the first quarter, we continued on the same route. We just told the guys, if you get the ball on offense, handle the ball and run the offense. And that’s what we got.”
Greenwich dominated time of possession in the first quarter with its inverted offense, jumping out to a surprising 2-0 lead.
With the majority of its starting lineup comprised of sophomores, and with at least seven key players down with injuries, the Cardinals have had to work hard just to stay in games against the FCIAC’s perennial elite.
Greenwich had a chance to put some added pressure on the Rams early in the second quarter after being awarded a two-man advantage as New Canaan was called for three penalties over a span of 34 seconds.
The Cardinals scored once to make it 3-1, but allowed the Rams to gain momentum with its short-handed goal. With Greenwich double-teaming the ball, Blasco rolled behind the net making it look like he was going to chew up the clock, then caught the Cardinals off guard by shifting into high gear and feeding Kraus with a quick pass in front of the net.
The Rams scored five more goals over the final 4:28, including back-breakers by Kraus and Bossidy in the final 35 seconds, to take a 7-3 lead at halftime.
New Canaan carried its momentum into the second half as the left-handed Blasco scored on the first shot of the third quarter. The Rams scored four more to make it 12-3.
“Our guys are so young and they’re still learning how to play in tight games,” Greenwich head coach Scott Bulkley said. “That’s the first time all season we’ve had an early lead, so maybe we relaxed a little bit. We’ve had some guys out with injuries, which put some even younger guys in there, and that was their first real taste of varsity lacrosse.”
Greenwich’s Alex Moeser (four goals, one assist) scored to make it 12-4 with 42 seconds left in the third quarter and the Rams emptied their bench going into the fourth, taking Carey out from between the pipes.
Greenwich kept on playing hard and scored four straight goals to make it 12-8 with 3:56 left.
“I liked the fact that they kept fighting,” Bulkley said.
That forced Whitten to put Carey back in the net. He made three saves down the stretch and defenseman John Rhudy scored on the run with 59 seconds left to seal the victory.
“They were trailing 6-1 in a recent game and won it, so we knew they could do that,” Whitten said. “But they’re a really young team made up of mostly freshmen and sophomores, so I think our veteran leadership really came through today.”
Greenwich goalie Ryan Fisher made eight saves in three quarters of work and Graham Savio had a nice day in the faceoff circle with 14 out of 25 wins.
Puck Richardson had a goal and one assist while Griffin Fawley and John Brainard added one goal each for New Canaan, which hasn’t missed a beat despite being forced to alter and re-alter its lineup after getting hit with a wave of injuries.
Duke Repko and Ted Bossidy were both lost for the season with knee injuries.
Richardson was in at attack with Harry Stanton out of the lineup. Stanton was also a replacement for Repko.
“The guys who are filling in are doing a great job,” Kraus said. “They’re getting some experience and really starting to prove themselves.”