Matt Oehl (as in goal) thought he had set up the game-winner with a pass just moments before he wound up scoring it himself . . . on a similar play.
“I threw that pass to George and his shot hit the goalie’s foot,” the Connetquot attack said of his diagonal feed to George Wichelns at the left post. About a minute later, Wichelns returned the favor, making the same pass to the same spot and this time Oehl buried it. His sixth goal with 2:28 left gave the Thunderbirds a dramatic come-from-behind 9-8 victory over host Smithtown West yesterday in a gritty matchup of Suffolk I title contenders.
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In a physical game that included 18 penalties, Connetquot improved to 7-0 while Smithtown West dropped to 5-2.
“It was a little chippy on both sides and we had to keep our composure,” said Oehl, who scored the Thunderbirds’ first four goals but couldn’t prevent his team from falling behind 7-4 entering the fourth quarter.
That’s when playing man-down so often finally caught up to the Bulls, who committed 10 fouls. Jack Richardson took a pass from Oehl and scored an extra-man goal with 11:18 left that made it 7-5. Oehl scored an unassisted man-up goal with 8:50 left that cut the deficit to one.
Dan Lewis, a rugged defenseman for the T-birds who committed a couple of fouls himself, tied the game on a spectacular and surprising sequence. He collected a ground ball in front of his own cage and rumbled past midfield, fully expecting to pass and drop back on defense.
“I had no intention of shooting,” Lewis said. “I was looking for my friend Matt to pass him the ball. But no one stopped me. So I kept coming and shot it. It was amazing. A great feeling.”
Lewis’ coast-to-coast dash tied the game at 7 with 8:11 left, but just 21 seconds later, Dan Caroussos (two goals, two assists) scored to put Smithtown West back on top. G.Q. Grippo, who assisted on three of Oehl’s goals, split two defenders, absorbed a couple of hits and scored to tie it at 8 with 3:48 remaining.
Sixteen seconds later, a skirmish with much pushing and shoving stopped the action. Connetquot wound up with an extra-man advantage for one minute on a slashing call, while one additional player from each team served non-releasable one-minute unnecessary roughness penalties.
Both teams were a man down when Oehl broke the final tie. “Last year, they took us out of the playoffs early,” Oehl said. “We had a lot of determination to win this game. I wanted it bad.”