CANTON >> Twenty years ago, a field hockey game between Canton and Enfield was literally front page news.
Canton was the No. 1 ranked team in the state and a two-time defending Class S champion with a 47-game winning streak. Enfield was ranked No. 2 in the state and a two-time defending Class M champion.
Hundreds of fans surrounded a grass field at Enfield High. The host Raiders took a two-goal lead but Canton scored twice in the final four minutes in 2-2 tie in a finish that whipped up the fans in a frenzy. The game was featured on the front page of the Hartford Courant’s sports section – a rare accomplishment for a field hockey game.
Today, both teams are rebuilding themselves. Neither team has enough players to form junior varsity teams. About 50 parents and friends were scattered about the grandstands Monday morning around Enfield High’s artificial turf field.
Canton is anxiously looking to return to the Class S tournament. They once qualified for 25 consecutive years. Enfield has also fallen on hard times, having won just four games in the past three seasons.
For the second time this season, the two teams played a spirited game. In September, it was a 1-1 tie. On Monday, Canton’s Kylie Delos scored with 6:14 left in overtime to lift the Warriors to a 2-1 victory.
Canton improved to 5-3-2 overall and 5-3-1 in the league. It’s the most wins in a single season for Canton since 2010 when they won six games. If Canton plays 16 games as scheduled, it should be enough to clinch a berth in the Class S tournament for the first time since 2010. Teams need to win 40 percent of their games.
The Warriors have won four of its last five games and are 4-0-1 since losing to Granby in late September. Included in the win streak was a 1-0 decision over Suffield, a team that began this week with an 8-2-0-1 record with Delos scoring on a penalty stroke with about two minutes left in the game.
Delos has scored five of her team-leading eight goals in the surge. Canton goalie Natalie Nardello has three shutouts in the last five games and made 10 saves against the host Raiders (4-5-1-1) on Monday.
“They are a very scrappy team,” said Enfield coach Cookie Bromage, who is in her 47th season behind the bench. “They’ve gotten stronger and I think they work very well together as a team.”
Canton’s co-coaches Margaret Bristol and Jen Peterson said the Canton players have improved their skills on the field and are communicating better with each other.
“They’re a hard-working group and it’s nice to work with a group of girls willing to work hard,” Bristol said.
Delos gave Canton a 1-0 lead with about two minutes left in the first half off a penalty corner situation. She rifled a shot that sailed into the net, about two feet off the turf.
Enfield tied the game up with a goal from Maggie Richards with less than 20 seconds remaining in the first half.
In the final 10 minutes of regulation, Enfield has the ball in Canton’s end of the field but wasn’t about to get off any strong shots. “Once we get pressured, our girls step up and do what they have to do,” Peterson said.
In the first three minutes of overtime, the Raiders kept the ball in Canton’s end for most of the time. But when Canton got its opportunity, they converted.
On a penalty corner, Deirdre Kronshnabel passed the ball out to Delos at the top of the scoring circle, who passed it to her right to teammate Lindsay Milligan. After getting pressured, Milligan passed it back to Delos who drove toward the net and got off a shot.
It was deflected by an Enfield defender right back to Delos, who moved toward the net again. Delos slipped past a Enfield defender and goalie Maddie LaRusso came out to challenge her. Delos got the ball past LaRusso and fired into an open net for the game-winning goal.
The Warriors played Avon and Granby earlier this week and closes out the regular season with its final road game at Somers on Monday and three straight home games against Stafford (Oct. 24), Valley Regional (Oct. 26, 11 a.m.) and Haddan-Killingworth (Oct. 30).