GUILFORD >> The strong second half of the season continues for No. 13-seeded Hand, which dominated on both ends of the field to come away with a 16-4 Class M quarterfinal win over Southern Connecticut Conference rival and No. 12 Guilford on Saturday at Guilford High.
Mike Cinicolo and Bryan McManus had four goals each and George McGuirk added three goals and an assist for the Tigers. Freshman goalie Pat Burkinshaw made 16 saves and defenders Taylor Houghton, Seamus Reilly and Ryan Kauffmann combined to cause eight turnovers.
After starting the season 1-6, Burkinshaw became the starting goalie and the Tigers went on a six-game winning streak. Hand is now 11-8.
“With a new coach and the players exposed to a new system, the tough start wasn’t a surprise,” Hand coach Paul Deon said. “It took longer to gel and get everything to come together. After that fifth game of the five-game losing streak we started turning it around.
“Starting Burkinshaw in goal was just one of the factors that turned our season around. The defense started clicking and we started to get balanced scoring and our transition was better.”
The Tigers now have the unenviable task of facing powerhouse and No. 1 seed Darien in the semifinals on Wednesday. Darien, 21-0 and ranked No. 1 in the Register Top 10 poll, defeated Notre Dame-West Haven 19-5 in another quarterfinal.
In the first quarter, Will Dacey scored 52 seconds in to give the Indians a 1-0 lead. The Tigers responded with five unanswered goals and the Indians never recovered. McManus capped the 5-0 run with a high shot near the right post to give Hand a 5-1 lead with 5:52 left in the second quarter.
The Indians got as close as three goals twice the rest of the game. Guilford’s K.C. Horton scored to cut the lead to 5-2 with 4:56 left in the second quarter. Kaufmann made it 6-2 for the Tigers and Horton scored again to cut the lead to 6-3 with 3:53 to go in the first half. The Tigers went on another 5-0 run with McManus giving Hand an 11-3 lead with 8:11 to go in the third.
Guilford actually outshot Hand 32-28 and the Indians had good scoring chances. But Burkinshaw and the Tigers’ defense took away those opportunities.
“We lost to them 8-7 in the regular season, so I thought this would be a closer game,” Burkinshaw said. “They took a lot of outside shots and I focused, and our defense focused, on stopping those shots. When we went up 5-1 that took some pressure off.
“The second half of the season has been special. We had more confidence in ourselves after our win against Amity, our first win after the five-game losing streak. That got us going and we all made a commitment to get better and play hard.”
Deon knows it only gets tougher the further the Tigers advance.
“These games always get tougher as you move on to the next round,” Deon said.
“But in lacrosse, you never know what will happen. Hopefully we’ll keep clicking and the confidence and success we’ve had the second half of the season will continue.”
Dacey had two goals and two assists and Horton had two goals for the Indians (11-9). Goalie James Bright had 12 saves for the Indians.
Hand 16, Guilford 4
Hand 3 6 2 5 — 16
Guilford 1 2 1 0 — 4
Goals: (GU) KC Horton 2; Will Dacey 2; (HD) Bryan McManus 4; Mike Cinicolo 4; George McGuirk 3; Reid Sweitzer 2; Ben Solin 1; Ryan Kaufmann 1; Tristan Dowd 1;
Assists: (GU) Will Dacey 2; Rob LoRicco 1; (HD) George McGuirk 1;
Saves: (GU) James Bright 12; Derek VanDeBovenkamp 1; (HD) Patrick Burkinshaw 16;
Shots—HD: 28; GU: 32;
Team records—Guilford 11-9; Hand 11-8