Hawks Hope Hard-Fought Loss Fuels Hunger For Playoffs
No team ever likes to lose, but the hope with a regular season setback that can only hurt a team’s playoff seeding is that it helps prevent the team from elimination once those playoffs start.
“Hopefully it makes them hungrier. They know they’re close,” said Scott Bulkley, head coach of Newtown High School’s boys’ lacrosse team, following a tough 5-4 loss to New Fairfield at Blue & Gold Stadium on May 8. The Rebels improved to 10-0 and the Nighthawks dropped to 7-4.
This marked Newtown’s second loss to the Rebels in as many tries. The first was a deceptive 9-4 New Fairfield win, a contest that was 4-4 heading to the fourth quarter before the Rebels pulled away on a rainy April 15 night.
“We played better today. We had a couple plays we wish we made,” said Bulkley, referring in part to a pair of scoring chances that were missed.
Newtown trailed 3-1 at the half but evened the score on goals by Will Wallace and Colin Breslin. The Rebels responded to Newtown’s tying goal only 23 seconds later, for a 4-3 lead with 2:27 to play in the third quarter. Tanner Trede’s second of two net-finders again evened the score, and it was 4-4 with just 35 seconds to go in the period. The Rebels reclaimed the lead with ten seconds to play in the stanza.
Newtown goaltender Jake Dandrea made a save in the final seconds of the third and helped keep the game close in the fourth, but the Nighthawks couldn’t break through late.
New Fairfield faceoff specialist Matt Constantinides, who is headed to Towson University, is such a threat to spark fast breaks off the draw that, for the second game in a row, the Nighthawks conceded the faceoffs throughout the contest in order to be in better position defensively.
At the start of the fourth quarter, with Nighthawk faceoff man Trede off the field having a wound on his leg wrapped, Newtown inserted defenseman Shaine Luzietti for the draw and went for possession in an effort to surprise the Rebels. It almost worked as Luzietti prevented the New Fairfield player from gaining clean control. A scramble for the ball ensued, but the Rebels gathered.
“We have to take advantage of that,” Bulkley said of the rare chance to get the ball against the Rebels.
“We’re still a little away from where we need to be,” said Bulkley, whose team started the regular season by jumping into the proverbial fire with game action after missing most of preseason due to coronavirus protocol, and has since sustained a slew of injuries to key players.
“That’s never an excuse,” said Bulkley, who credited the Rebels for remaining undefeated while playing minus their own top player due to injury.
New Fairfield had beaten every team by a minimum of five goals coming in, and the NHS coach was pleased with his team’s ability to hang in there, especially given New Fairfield’s dominance in ball control off the draw.
“I think our defense played exceptionally well,” Bulkley said.
Dandrea made some key stops, and was helped out by Luzietti, Mike Haddick, Nick Sabillion, Jake Bulkley, Trede, TJ O’Connell, and Isaiah Williams in the back.
Trede had five ground ball scoops, and Luzietti had four. Connor Breslin recorded an assist.
Most of Newtown’s wins have been lopsided, including a 13-4 victory at Pomperaug of Southbury on May 7. Trede had five goals, three assists, and four ground balls, and Matt Jacobs and Ryan Ruddy both scored twice in the game.
The Nighthawks bested Stratford 14-1 on May 11 to improve to 8-4. Daniel Jaeger won 11 faceoffs. Colin Breslin had four goals and four assists, Bulkley had six assists and 12 ground balls, Connor Breslin had four goals, Trede notched three goals and two assists, Wallace had three goals, and Ruddy recorded two goals.
The South-West Conference tournament is fast approaching, with quarterfinals scheduled for May 20, and the Nighthawks are hoping for an opportunity to see if the third time is the charm against New Fairfield. But there are other strong teams that might stand in the way of either the Rebels or the Hawks. Newtown edged Joel Barlow of Redding 7-5 and dropped a 7-6 nail-biter to Weston.
Newtown will cap off the regular slate, following final-week tilts against Stratford and Bethel, in a rematch with Weston, Saturday, May 15, on the road at 6 pm.
Andy Hutchison can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.