MERIDEN — E.O. Smith boys soccer coach John Blomstrann didn’t think there was any way his team could be shut out.
Masuk proved him wrong.
The fourth-seeded Panthers had all the answers for the high-powered juggernaut that was E.O. Smith, upsetting the top seed in Class L 1-0 on Monday at Falcon Field to punch their ticket to the state finals.
“It’s a shock to the system just because of how well [we] played for so long,” said Blomstrann, whose team entered the match 19-0. “We really didn’t think we could get shut out this year, and we did. They definitely deserved to go on to the final.”
Ryan Hodska’s goal in the 26th minute proved to be the difference in helping Masuk (20-2-1) reach its first final. The Panthers will face defending champion Daniel Hand, the No. 10 seed, on Saturday at a site to be determined.
“Obviously, we got that goal early,” Masuk coach Antonio Viscuso said, “and we’ve always relied on our back line. We call them the LOD — Legion of Doom.”
Although E.O. Smith generated plenty of scoring chances, goalkeeper Sam Forsythe and the other four members of Masuk’s Legion of Doom — Matt Machan, Max Mastrorocco, Aidan McShane and Zach McCollum — never budged. E.O. Smith, which had scored a whopping 13 goals through the first three rounds of the state tournament, came up empty when it mattered most.
“I wanted to try to keep calm back there and stay composed,” Forsythe said.
E.O. Smith shut out Masuk 7-0 in the Class L quarterfinals last season— and ultimately lost in the semifinals to Barlow on penalty kicks — but the Panthers promised things would be different this time around. Hodska put those words into action, scoring off a cross from Stephen Murphy on a counter attack.
“No one’s indestructible,” Viscuso said. “They saw that when we got that first goal that we cut them. We said that now we have that confidence that we can take this team. … E.O. Smith hasn’t been in that situation.”
E.O. Smith had scored at least two goals in 18 of its previous 19 games this season. Monday, though, was different.
“We’ve been behind a lot this year. We didn’t really panic, but we just couldn’t get one,” Blomstrann said.
PLAYER OF THE GAME
Ryan Hodska, Masuk, F: The senior buried a cross from Stephen Murphy with 14:04 remaining in the first half for the only goal of the match.
Masuk will be making its first trip to the state final. Meanwhile, Hand will be vying for its second straight state title and fifth overall. The Tigers beat Barlow 1-0 in double overtime to win Class L last year. Prior to that, the Tigers’ last finals appearance was 1999 (2-0 loss to Wethersfield in Class L).
“To have them beat us 7-0 last year in the quarters and to come back with a vengeance after losing basically a lot of seniors was insane. I just can’t describe it.” — Hodska
MASUK 1, E.O. SMITH 0
MASUK 1 0—1
E.O. SMITH 0 0—0
Records: Masuk 20-2-1; E.O. Smith 19-1. Scoring: M — Ryan Hodska 1g, Stephen Murphy 1a. Goalies: M — Sam Forsythe (1 save); EOS — Dylan Pallanck (5). Shots: M — 10; EOS — 11. Yellow card: M — Aidan McShane.