NEW CANAAN — New Canaan’s list of opponents for the first two weeks of the boys lacrosse season reads like a who’s who of the best teams in Connecticut.
And the Rams wouldn’t have it any other way.
“It’s great, isn’t it?,” New Canaan coach Chip Buzzeo said. “I think the boys are really enjoying this schedule. It’s certainly fun to play the best teams you can play and we’re learning a lot about ourselves.”
In the latest marquee match-up, the No. 3 Rams busted open a tight game with four straight goals in the second half and defeated No. 4 Fairfield Prep 10-8 at Dunning Field.
It was a nice rebound for New Canaan (2-2), which let a second-half lead slip away during a 10-9 loss in Ridgefield last Thursday. It was a lesson learned for the Rams.
“Last game, we had a terrible third quarter, we had been winning at halftime and then we went down, so we knew we had to work on that,” New Canaan senior co-captain Chris Canet said. “We lost the first two faceoffs but we battled back and we ended up getting more points than them, which is what you want.”
Fairfield Prep (2-2) was also coming off a loss in Ridgefield (13-5 on Saturday) and coach Graham Niemi said the Jesuits were “ a little better a little longer” against New Canaan.
“The other night (against Ridgefield), we had a great first quarter and then it got away from us,” Niemi said. “Today we played 36 minutes of pretty good ball. We’ve got a really young group of kids and we’re better than we were 48 hours ago and that’s the goal: Just to keep getting better and get ready to play in June. We’re closer than we were.”
For the Rams, Nick Stiles opened the game with three straight goals and Callum Wood, a senior co-captain who missed most of the first three games, also scored three straight to turn a 7-6 deficit into a 9-7 lead with 4:14 remaining.
Canet was the glue that held it together, scoring twice and dishing out three assists during a five-goal stretch,
“He always wants to make the big play, that’s the kind of player he is,” Buzzeo said. “We count on Chris to do a lot more than just score goals and I’ve told him since he was a freshman that his contribution is not just scoring goals, it’s making assists, drawing double teams.”
The Jesuits played an aggressive defense, which led to a few turnovers, but also gave New Canaan several man-up advantages.
“It’s a good game plan but they made a few mistakes and we made them pay,” Buzzeo said. “We wanted to take advantage of that aggressiveness from them and get better looks, and we got them.”
Neither team was able to pull too far ahead, with New Canaan’s three-goal lead in the fourth quarter being the biggest advantage. Fairfield Prep led 4-3 after one quarter, New Canaan took a 5-4 lead at halftime, and the teams were again tied at 7-7 after three quarters.
With 9:47 remaining, Canet set up Wood for the go-ahead goal and Wood then completed his hat trick off a pass from Harry Appelt to make it 9-7 with 4:14 remaining.
“Luckily we had a lot of man-up, and he’s our low righty guy on our man-up,” Canet said of Wood. “He’s been champing at the bit to get out here and he showed up. He’s a captain, he’s a senior and he’s a leader. He played amazing.”
New Canaan’s gauntlet of tough teams continues as it plays at No. 5 Wilton on Wednesday and hosts No. 1 Darien on Saturday.
For the Jesuits, there were plenty of good things to take away from Monday’s game.
“(New Canaan) played great,” Niemi said. “That offense put a lot of pressure on us and we had to change the match-ups a little bit to try and help our defense. Our senior goalie, Sammy Cargill), played very well and we faced off a little better than we traditionally do against these guys, so there’s a lot of positives for us.”
“That’s the key early in the season: You make adjustments, fix mistakes and learn who can do what. We’re still mixing and matching, putting guys in different spots, and the goal is to be as prepared as possible for the playoffs.” – New Canaan coach Chip Buzzeo