NEW CANAAN — The New Canaan and Ridgefield boys lacrosse teams had been here before.
When they met in the season’s first week, the Rams held a three-goal lead at halftime, but the Tigers rallied in the second half for a 10-9 victory.
The Rams didn’t allow a repeat performance.
No. 4 New Canaan built a 9-4 advantage in the first half and this time completed the performance for an 11-8 win over No. 2 Ridgefield Saturday at Dunning Field.
It was not only revenge for the Rams (7-3), but a sign of growth.
“I would much rather be a complete team at the end of the season than the beginning,” senior co-captain Chris Canet said. “The second half of the season, you’re seeing a different team. We’re sharing the ball and everyone’s getting goals. That’s how our offense needs to run.”
The deja vu was more pronounced for Ridgefield (6-4). The Tigers have had a bad habit of digging themselves into first-half holes and then trying to dig out, according to coach Roy Colsey.
“We still have not played four quarters,” Colsey said. “We make the same mistakes three, four and five times a game, and we continue to put ourselves in extremely difficult situations leading into the second half. We desperately try to scratch and claw our way out, but we’re not going to win a lot of games in the FCIAC, and we’re certainly not going to make any noise in the states doing this.”
New Canaan had several stars on offense. Senior Callum Wood had a hat trick in the first quarter and scored four goals overall, Canet had a hat trick, Nick Stiles put up a goal and two assists, and Ryan Caione scored twice.
But it was senior FOGO Hayden Shin who made it all click, dominating on faceoffs and allowing the Rams’ offense to possess the ball for long periods.
“The key was winning the faceoffs and Hayden Shin was the faceoff guy we knew he was today. He absolutely dominated,” New Canaan coach Chip Buzzeo said. “Getting the ball and keeping the ball away from that offense is a good strategy against Ridgefield.”
“He’s a huge part of this team and you can see his impact in a game like today,” Caione said. “He was giving us the ball a lot and I can’t say enough good things about him.”
Ridgefield was hurt by the absence of injured defenseman Kai Prohaszka. In the first game with New Canaan, Prohaszka was put on faceoffs and helped change the momentum in the second half.
The Tigers made one adjustment during Saturday’s game, calling goalie Liam Harford off the bench to take over for starter Matt Shepard in the second quarter.
Harford made a few saves early and seemingly provided a little spark, but outside of five goals from Luke Winkler, Ridgefield couldn’t get anything going offensively.
“(Harford has) been a bright spot knowing we can go to him,” Colsey said. “And Luke Winkler had a great game today. He was certainly our offensive star and did everything we could possibly ask. We just didn’t get a lot from the rest of the offense.”
The Rams’ three losses have been against FCIAC opponents they’ll see again during the second half of the season. Ridgefield was the first, with Darien (May 20) and Staple (May 22) ahead.
“We started off not like we wanted to, and we’re looking forward to these games (now),” Buzzeo said. “We’re excited that we get to play these teams twice before the playoffs and right now we’re feeling good about where we are.”
PLAYER OF THE GAME
Hayden Shin, New Canaan: The senior was dominant on faceoffs, giving the Rams a ton of offensive opportunities and limiting Ridgefield’s possession time.
“After a shutdown year in which we didn’t play, there were a lot of guys who needed to learn how to play varsity lacrosse. We’re starting to and the good news is we see the improvement every week. That’s encouraging as a coach, but more importantly, I’m proud of the boys for buying in.” — New Canaan coach Chip Buzzeo