New Canaan closes strong to beat Fairfield Prep
FAIRFIELD -- The problem with having a young team is they have to learn how to close out games, and that usually takes time. Fairfield Prep is a young team. And right now, the Jesuits are finding out just how difficult it is to finish strong and win.
New Canaan, the state's No. 3 team, broke away from a tight one-goal lead early in the fourth quarter with five unanswered goals and knocked off the No. 6 Jesuits 15-9 Saturday night at Rafferty Stadium.
"I don't know what's happening with us," Prep coach Chris Smalkais said. `We were (tied) 6-6 with Delbarton (NJ) going into the fourth (quarter) and we just can't seem to close out a game. I don't know why."
Perhaps it's the fact that Prep, which fell to 4-4 with the loss, has just six seniors on its roster.
"We have a young team, no question," Smalkais said. "And we're asking a lot of younger players to do a lot of things. I just think that ¦ I don't question the effort, I think we played hard today. We're young, we have some inexperience and for whatever reason, we can't seem to close out games and traditionally, our teams have been able to do that."
New Canaan, on the other hand, closed the game out in style. Prep's Chris Brown scored his fourth goal of the game with 10:30 to play, cutting the Rams lead to 10-9, but from there, New Canaan dominated. Ryan O'Connell scored three of his five goals in the fourth quarter and goaltender Drew Morris stoned the Jesuits the rest of the way as the Rams improved to 7-2.
"Drew was phenomenal. He's a great goalie and he's finally finding his groove," Rams coach Chip Buzzeo said. "I think he's finally comfortable. He doesn't play like a sophomore. We know how good he is and I think you're going to see a lot more of that down the stretch."
New Canaan's Clayton Burt opened the scoring, but Prep answered with goals from Brendan Hoffman and Patrick Lambert to take a 2-1 lead with 4:38 left in the first quarter. The Rams responded with three straight scores, two from Michael Kraus and one from Kyle Smith, to go ahead 4-2 but the Jesuits ended the quarter with goals from Mitchell Savoca and Chris Brown to tie matters at 4-4.
Thanks to two goals from Justin Meichner, one from O'Connell and another from Smith, New Canaan opened an 8-5 lead with 5:43 left before halftime. But Prep's defense clamped down and did not allow the Rams to score again and cut the halftime margin to 8-6 thanks to a goal from Matt Crowe.
Both teams scored twice in the third to make it 10-8 New Canaan heading into the fourth quarter before three O'Connell goals and tallies from Owen Tolland and Smith -- his fourth of the game -- to ice the win.
"In the back of our heads, we're still sitting on that Greenwich game (13-10 loss last Saturday) and that's got a fire in our stomachs," Smith said. "We wanted to come out strong in that final quarter. Coach said that we were up two but we were going to win by more than two."
Said Buzzeo: "I was really proud with the way we held it together in that fourth quarter. We regrouped and we were smart with the ball. Our defense was very good. We'd been getting burned lately and a couple of times today we got burned on our transition defense but our offense controlled the ball and when the offense takes care of the ball, that's the best defense you can have."
New Canaan 15, Prep 9
NEW CANAAN 4 4 2 5--15
FAIRFIELD PREP 4 2 2 1--9
Records: New Canaan (7-2), Fairfield Prep (4-4)
Scoring: NC--Ryan O'Connell (5 goals), Kyle Smith (4 goals), Justin Meichner (2 goals), Michael Kraus (2 goals) Owen Tolland (1 goal), Clayton Burt (1 goal). FP--Chris Brown (4 goals), Mitchell Savoca (2 goals) Patrick Lambert (1 goal), Brendan Hoffman (1 goal), Matthew Crowe (1 goal). Goalies: New Canaan: Drew Morris; Fairfield Prep: John O'Connor