TORRINGTON >> The two best teams in the NVL clashed hard at the Robert H. Frost Sports Complex Wednesday evening.
Torrington (5-1) scored first. Then Naugatuck (6-0) came back with three second-half goals, including the winner with 57 seconds left, for a 3-2 win.
“We’re hoping to see each other again this year,” said Torrington coach Mike Fritch Jr.
The arch rivals meet just once in the regular season, but the NVL tournament looms after that.
“We know we’re going to play each other in the finals,” said Torrington senior John McCarthy.
The game was brutally physical throughout.
“It’s always a tough battle,” said Naugatuck coach Art Nunes. “Coming to Torrington is never easy. It’s emotional; it’s physical; and it’s mental. As much as it looks like they don’t like playing each other, they like playing each other because everything is going to be tested.”
The Raiders beat Naugatuck twice last year; Watertown won the league title. Nevertheless, the Greyhounds are always the NVL team to beat.
Naugatuck plays a quicker style than most other NVL teams. The Raiders traditionally step up their pace against the Greyhounds.
With great Raider speed up front this year, the style worked to Torrington’s advantage in the first half.
Naugatuck played possession. Torrington sent long balls forward for its strikers to chase.
Shane Walker raced for one in the first minute.
Chris Parrotta got a head on one in the seventh.
Naugatuck goalkeeper Fez Pereira just beat Walker in the 21st minute.
Meanwhile, the Greyhounds kept it in Torrington territory for long stretches, often settling for long shots, occasionally breaking through for stiff tests to Raider goalkeeper Zack Paniati.
The big senior soared in a crowd to bat the ball out on a Greyhound corner kick in the 26th minute. He took a ball off a Naugatuck player’s foot in the 35th.
“It’s one of the best games Zack has ever played,” said Coach Fritch.
Four minutes from the end of the half, Shane Bierfeldt handed off to McCarthy charging up from the backfield. McCarthy got past the last defender, then shot past Pereira into the left corner of the net.
The game got hotter from there.
A Naugatuck player came off with a yellow card. Chirping was part of the game all over the field.
“They love to play each other,” confirmed Coach Fritch.
Behind the first-half scenes, Torrington center midfielder Kevin Vaca went down three minutes into the game. Thanks to other injuries, Fritch made changes on the fly. Depth was a Torrington problem by the break.
Naugatuck stepped up.
From a narrow 6-4 shooting edge in the first half, the Greyhounds ruled the second 9-3.
Two of the shots came back-to-back in the third minute.
In the 16th, Greyhound Joe Martins fired a shot from the right side. Paniati fell on it. The ball squirted loose. Adam Branco caught it on the line, blasting it in for the tie.
Torrington responded with long range pressure, including its only corner kick of the game.
“They beat us 6-1 in corner kicks. That’s way too many,” said Fritch.
Second-half Greyhound pressure was stiffer than the first.
Branco had a near breakaway in the 20th minute, then sailed a shot just past the net in the 24th.
Torrington’s Ethan Barbieri served into the box in the 26th. Pereira juggled it for a second, then recovered.
The game seemed headed for overtime with eight minutes left in regulation.
Instead, Fernando Branco served a ball into the box from the right side. Adam Branco collected it at the goal mouth, 2-1.
Four minutes later, Paniati withstood two point blank Greyhound shots in a row, then grabbed the ball for his finest moment.
In another minute, Amar Suljic, on a pass from Bierfeldt, put the Red Raiders back in the game with a shot from 15 yards out on the right side, 2-2.
Now overtime seemed more inevitable than ever, especially when Paniati shot down another point blank Greyhound shot.
The clock ticked down from the final minute.
Naugatuck had the ball in the Torrington box. Facundo Coitini sent the ball toward the goal. It deflected off a Torrington player, then bounced slowly into the goal. The winner.
“It was disappointing, but you’ve got to forget it by 10 p.m.,” said Fritch. “It’s one game, not the end of the world.”
The Raiders return Friday in a 6:30 p.m. home match with 1-4 Derby.
Naugatuck 3, Torrington 2
At Torrington High School
Naugatuck 0 3-3
Torrington 1 1-2
Goals: N-Adam Branco 2; Facundo Coitino. T-John McCarthy; Amar Suljic. Assists: N-Joe Martins; Fernando Branco. T-Shane Bierfeldt 2. Shots: 15-7 Naugatuck. Saves: N-Fez Pereira 3. T-Zack Paniati 12.
Records: Naugatuck 6-0; Torrington 5-1.