Dillon Studdert tried to keep a straight face. You know, score the game-winner, be cool and act like you’ve been there before.
Truth is, the junior middie hadn’t been there before and he couldn’t help but break into a wide smile as teammates chanted “Dill-on! Dill-on! Dill-on!” while Studdert was describing the overtime goal that gave host Half Hollow Hills East an 11-10 victory over Bay Shore in a Suffolk A first-round playoff game Tuesday.
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“Coming out of the timeout, I saw that they were in a zone defense, so we ran one of our man-up plays. Tried to get a look. Didn’t have it originally,” Studdert said of his “golden goal” 2:26 into the first extra period. “But I got open on the back side and Joey Tesoriero found me for the game-winner.”
The sixth-seeded Thunderbirds (12-5) advanced to Friday’s quarterfinal game at No. 3 Connetquot. The No. 11 Marauders finished 8-9, despite another outstanding performance from eighth-grader Brennan O’Neill, who scored five goals with an assist and leads Long Island in scoring with 60 goals and 98 points. Teammate Matt Ilchuk had two goals and four assists.
O’Neill scooped up a ground ball in front of the cage and gave Bay Shore a 10-9 lead with 1:42 left in the third quarter. But the Thunderbirds’ defense, led by Nick DiPietro and eighth-grade goalkeeper Evan Stallone (11 saves, including two huge ones in the final minute of the third), shut out the Marauders the rest of the way.
Hills East, which got four goals from Joe Wulforst and two goals and three assists from Tesoriero, overcame a large deficit on faceoffs with some aggressive work on ground balls. The T-birds tied the game with 5:31 left on a shot through a screen by Andre Gomez off a Tesoriero feed.
“It was going back and forth, but I’m a senior and I knew I had to finish,” said Wulforst, who scored three straight goals in the second quarter and tied it at 9 with a blast from the top of the slot late in the third. “When we got the ball in overtime, we had to handle it well. No stupid passes.”
Hills East coach Gordon Hodgson called for his extra-man set because Bay Shore was playing a zone. “We looked for a seam and an opportunity to get to the cage,” Hodgson said. “That’s exactly what happened. They extended and Dillon ducked underneath.”
And came up smiling.