Smithown West's John Hoffman (22) drives against a Ward Melville...

Smithown West's John Hoffman (22) drives against a Ward Melville defender during the first half of the game at Ward Melville High School on Thursday, April 25, 2019. Credit: Joseph D. Sullivan

John Hoffman worked the back of the cage as precious seconds came off the clock. Ward Melville had erased a seven-goal deficit and climbed within two of Smithtown West with just more than two minutes left as Hoffman played keep-away to try to secure the win for the Bulls.

“I wanted to hold onto the ball as long as I could, but the goalie came out for me,” Hoffman said. “So, I went right to the net.”

Hoffman buried his fourth goal of the game and third of the fourth quarter with 48 seconds left to seal Smithtown West’s 11-8 win over Ward Melville Thursday in a Suffolk Division I boys lacrosse game in East Setauket.

The goal helped Smithtown West maintain sole possession of first place and improve to 10-0 in divisional play. Ward Melville (9-2) lost for the second time in three games.

“There’s going to be ebbs and flows in these games where both teams are so good,” Smithtown West coach Bob Moltisanti said. “We came out with a lot of energy and great execution in the first half and set the tone for the game.”

Smithtown West opened a 3-0 first-quarter lead on two goals from Dan Caddigan and one from Marc Cottage. The Bulls continued the offensive pressure in the second quarter and took an 8-1 lead as   Dan Caddigan scored his third goal and Matt Caddigan found the net twice.

“It’s a full team effort and we were getting excellent spacing and sharing the ball,” said Hoffman, who scored his first goal in the middle of the five-goal, second-quarter burst. “We’ve been playing together since we’re five years old. Everyone has a role and we all play well together.”

Moltisanti said one of the keys came in the faceoff circle, where Conor Calderone won 18 of 21 draws.

“Conor wins those possessions and it takes the pressure off us,” Moltisanti said. “It was important because Ward Melville’s keeper made some phenomenal saves in the third quarter to help them climb back in the game. And we had good looks; he just came up big.”

Collin Krieg, who was battered throughout the first half by a Smithtown West offense that moved the ball well, was exceptional in the third quarter, shutting out the high-octane Bulls as Ward Melville scored three times to get within 8-5. Krieg shut out the Bulls for a 16:07 span to help the Patriots mount the comeback.

“We had to maintain our focus and keep our composure,” Calderone said. “We knew they wouldn’t fold over. Good teams come back, and big-time players come through down the stretch. I’m sure we’ll see them again in the playoffs.”

One of those clutch players was Hoffman, who scored the first two goals of the fourth quarter in a 1:09 span to expand the lead 10-5. He converted Ryan Bell’s fourth assist of the game and finished on a perfectly timed pass from Christian Lowd.

Hoffman,  who also had an assist, was the go-to guy.