Champions Once Again: NC Boys Lax Defeats Daniel Hand for 2nd Consecutive Year to Defend CIAC Class M Title

Print More

Going into this season, New Canaan head coach Chip Buzzeo knew that despite graduating an incredibly talented class of 23 seniors the prior year—a class whose final victory as Rams was a Class M state championship—that his squad, led by its 15 seniors, could put together a repeat performance and cap its season off with another title win.

And on Saturday afternoon at Jack Casagrande Field in Norwalk, the top-seeded Rams (17-4) made their coach’s belief in them come to fruition when they defeated the No. 6 seed Daniel Hand Tigers (10-6 regular season) for the second consecutive year in the finals, 13-2, to retain the Class M title.

“This is my fourth year with this senior class,” Buzzeo told “It’s the first time that I’ve had four years with a group. All of them, in their four years, have created a certain type of ethos that, I feel, a lot of people in New Canaan can look up to. So this one is special.”

Despite the final score, the two teams both came out and played as if neither wanted to be the first ones to break. Daniel Hand had the majority of the possession in the game’s opening quarter and fired several shots in the direction of the net as a result. But New Canaan goaltender, Drew Morris, saved both of Hand’s quality chances, keeping the Tigers off the board.

Then with just under a minute remaining in the quarter, the Rams possessed the ball in the offensive zone and junior midfielder Ryan O’Connell took advantage, beating Hand’s goalie, Eric Lyons, between the legs for the first score of the game and a 1-0 New Canaan lead heading to quarter number two.

34 seconds into the new period, the Rams were on the board again. This time courtesy of senior tri-captain Peter Swindell, who laid out in front of the net with his shot which beat Lyons to put New Canaan up two.

About three minutes later, Hand got on the board when George McGuirk fed teammate Zakery Santoemma in front of the net. Santoemma weaved his way through the congestion of the Rams defense to put one past Morris and cut the Tigers’ deficit in half, 2-1.

With it a one-goal game again, New Canaan looked to answer and did so less than a minute later. After a forced turnover by the Rams, junior attacker Matt Bisceglia had the ball and netted his first of the afternoon to regain the two-goal lead and make it 3-1 Rams.

Minutes later, a Daniel Hand foul was committed to put New Canaan a man-up for one minute–they would only need 13 seconds. Which was fitting as number thirteen himself, Swindell, netted his second of the afternoon with a spectacular goal, one that had him sneak up on Lyons from behind, beating him top left. And with momentum on their side and the seconds in the opening half winding down, New Canaan looked for one more score. And Jackson Appelt gave it to them with just 11 seconds remaining putting the Rams up 5-1, a lead they took into halftime.

But while New Canaan had some breathing room, they knew that a 5-1 lead in a championship game was nothing to be satisfied with.

“5-1 at half means the game’s not over,” Swindell told “So we knew we had to come out strong. If they [Hand] score the first one coming out of the half, they would have a lot of energy. So we knew we had to get that first one.”

So on the attack they went. And after the first four minutes were scoreless, senior tri-captain Kyle Smith sparked the Rams offense alive again by netting his first of the game and putting New Canaan up five. Jack Hoelzer followed that up, 41 seconds later, with another goal to put the Rams ahead 7-1. Four minutes after that it was senior Jono Betack getting himself on the board when fellow senior Clayton Burt connected with him as he charged down the slot and Betack fired the ball to the back of the net to put New Canaan up seven. Then in the quarter’s final minute, not content with an 8-1 lead, New Canaan found the back of net twice more, courtesy of Bisceglia’s second with 11 seconds left and Burt’s first with exactly one second to go in the period.

Now with a 10-1 lead entering the fourth and final quarter, it was just a matter of time before the Rams could celebrate. Before they did, though, Smith netted his second, as did Appelt, and the thirteenth and final New Canaan score came from Bisceglia’s stick, his hat-trick tally, to put the Rams up 13-1 and cap off a run of 11 unanswered goals.

Hand would finally answer and get back on the board with a tally from Liam Gottlick with 6:54 to play, ending their scoreless drought at 25:45. But the Rams defense and continuous offensive throttle just proved to be too much for the Tigers to handle on the afternoon. And when the horn sounded the Rams players and coaches charged the field to celebrate a second consecutive Class M title.

“We won a lot of faceoffs and we probably had the ball about ninety percent of the game,” Buzzeo said. “Their goalie [Lyons] made a lot of great saves. But we just did what we were supposed to do. When you play against a zone defense you got to just keep getting your shots, keep getting your possessions and the goals will eventually fall—and they did. I’m very happy. The boys played great.”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *