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Stonington outlasts Canton in epic Class S semifinal on penalty strokes

Stonington goalie Madi Allard closes in on Canton’s Gabbie DelSanto during penalty strokes in Tuesday’s Class S semifinal in Wethersfield. DelSanto scored on the play. More game photos

WETHERSFIELD, Nov. 15, 2022 – Tuesday night’s Class S semifinal field hockey game between No. 2 Canton and No. 3 seed Stonington had a little bit of everything.

A Canton fan was ejected for yelling at an official in the first half, it snowed throughout the game and Warrior goalie Lyla O’Connor stopped a penalty shot in the fourth quarter to keep the game tied. The two teams played a pair of scoreless 7-vs.-7 overtime sessions and went to penalty strokes.

The two teams were tied after the first round of five shooters so it went to sudden death round where Stonington’s Anna Lettiere scored and Bears goalie Madi Allard made her fourth save in the shootout to lift Stonington to a 2-1 win over the Warriors and into Saturday’s Class S championship game against North Branford.

It will be a rematch of last year’s championship game which North Branford won.

As the snow fell on the Wethersfield High campus, Stonington (16-2-2) celebrated the moment and savored a hard-fought win over the Warriors.

“All sort of crazy stuff is going on around us,” Stonington coach Jenna Tucchio said. “A guy gets thrown out. It’s snowing. We’re blind (due to the snow). We had to change the color of the ball (from white to fluorescent orange because the referee was losing sight of it). It was just madness but we tried to stay focused on what we needed to do.”

Canton (16-3) was crushed. They had 12 penalty corners in the game, including eight in the third period. Stonington goalie Madi Allard made 19 saves in the win.

“We just couldn’t get the ball into the net today,” Canton coach Margaret Bristol said. “We played a great game. The conditions definitely did not work to our advantage.”

The Warriors were stunned when it was over and the Bears walked off with a 2-1 win on penalty strokes. More game photos

As the snow collected on the artificial turf field, it began to slow the ball down. It was harder to get the ball to roll freely as it normally does on turf.

Tied after 40 minutes of regulation, the two teams played 7-on-7 in a pair of 10-minute overtime periods. Both teams had a few chances but couldn’t put another shot into the net.

The shootout to decide the game was a little different than a fan would see in soccer where the goalie stands on the end line and has to guess where the shooter is going to shoot the ball. And that goalie can’t move until the shooter strikes the ball.

In field hockey, they put eight seconds on the clock and places the shooter on the 25 yard line. On the whistle, the goalie generally comes out of the net and attacks the shooter, who has eight seconds to get off a shot and score.

Allard was particularly aggressive stopping four of Canton’s six attempted penalty strokes, colliding with the Canton shooter on nearly every play.

“She did a great job,” Tuccio said. “She was aggressive. (Allard) loves when she can dive and have free reign. She thrives on that. Give Madi the room to dive or sprint and she loves that.I think she was pretty pumped for this.”

Canton and Stonington battle in the snow during Tuesday night’s Class S semifinal at Wethersfield. The snow began early in the second quarter and was heaviest in the fourth quarter and OT. More game photos

Canton led 2-1 after three shooters in penalty strokes on goals from Lila Whitney and Gabbie DelSanto. The Bears tied it on a goal from Megan Harris, who was the fourth shooter.

In the second round, Allard shut down Whitney and then Stonington’s Anna Lettiere scored her second shootout goal to send the Bears to the finals.

“I just track the ball and see which way they are going to pull and try to block that whole area,” Allard said. “I just watch the ball not the player. It takes a little bit of time but you don’t think of anything but the ball.”

It was the first penalty stroke win of her career in net, Allard said.

Stonington took a 1-0 lead with 13:09 left in the second quarter when Lettiere ripped a hard shot that deflected off the pads of Canton goalie Lyla O’Connor and into the net.

The Warriors tied the game in the third quarter on a goal from Emma Foy, her fourth goal of the season, on a high shot that she ripped into a corner of the net.

Canton had eight penalty corners in the third quarter but the Stonington defenders did a good job of keeping the ball away from Allard, who made four stops in the quarter.

O’Connor made a big save in the fourth quarter with 11 minutes left in regulation to keep the game tied on a more traditional penalty stroke when the goalie has to be in one spot. O’Connor made five saves in the fourth quarter.

In the two overtime periods, four players are taken off the field for 7 vs. 7 and the Warriors were all over the field, trying to move the ball. DelSanto, Ellie Bahre, Madison Dufresne and Erin Mackin seemed to be all over the field. Both teams were exhausted by the end of the second OT session.

“It was a great game, a great game by both teams,” Bristol said softly afterwards.

“There were definite changes of momentum in the game for us and for them but we stayed true. We stayed focused and in the end, it was our calmness and our poise that got us through,” Tuccio said. “For this little team to be that poised, focused and that calm is amazing. I am super proud of them.”

The Bears will be making their seventh appearance in the final and looking for their first title since 2013. The Warriors were looking for their first finals appearance since 2007. The last team to eliminate the Warriors on penalty strokes was Morgan in the second round in 2001.

It was the second straight OT game for Canton, who beat conference rival Stafford, 3-2 in OT in the quarterfinals last Thursday. DelSanto had two goals in that win over the Bulldogs with Bahre getting the game-winning goal 5:10 into the first OT off an assist from DelSanto. O’Connor made 10 saves in the victory.

Stonington 2, Canton 1 (penalty strokes)
At Wethersfield
Stonington (16-2-2)        0  1  0  0  0  0  — 2
Canton (16-3)                   0  0  1  0  0  0  — 1
Goals: Emma Foy (C), Brianna Plew (S); Saves: Lyla O’Connor (C) 10, Madi Allard (S) 19; Penalty corners: Canton 12-2
Penalty strokes: Tied 2-2 after first round of five shooters (Canton – Lila Whitney, Gabbie Delsanto; Stonington – Anna Lettiere, Megan Harris). Stonington won in sudden death in second round (Stonington – Lettiere)

Gerry deSimas, Jr., is the editor and founder of The Collinsville Press. He is an award-winning writer and has been covering sports in Connecticut and New England for more than 40 years. He was inducted into the New England High School Wrestling Hall of Fame in 2018.

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