Connetquot goalie Andrew Pinto is only 5-7, and opponents might think that means more open net to aim at. Until they release their shot and find Pinto has beaten them to the spot.
“I’m quick with my hands and quick with my feet,” Pinto said.
West Islip learned that the hard way. Pinto made 12 saves, taming the Lions until the Thunderbirds’ offense shifted into high gear. No. 5 Connetquot scored three goals in 47 seconds in the third quarter and netted six of the final seven goals to pull away from host No. 4 West Islip, 10-5, Friday in a Suffolk A boys lacrosse quarterfinal.
The Thunderbirds (11-4) will play No. 1 Ward Melville 7 p.m. Thursday at Islip High School in the Class A semifinals. West Islip finished 11-5 in the final season of iconic coach Scott Craig’s distinguished 31-year career. Craig won 479 games, including nine Suffolk titles and five state championships.
“That’s all she wrote,” Craig said afterward, all smiles despite the loss.
Pinto was smiling, too, especially when he recalled a couple of pivotal saves in the fourth quarter. West Islip trailed 7-5 when Pinto robbed Bobby Arena in transition, and he steered aside Max Albanese’s dangerous shot a minute later to keep it an 8-5 game.
“I feel that getting stops really helps the team. It gives us momentum going the other way,” Pinto said.
That was certainly the case in the third quarter when Pinto made a big save that prevented the Lions from expanding their 4-3 edge, leading to a transition goal by Tyler Cordes, his second, that tied it with 5:14 left in the third.
Then the T-birds exploded for three quick game-changing scores. George Wichelns (two goals, one assist) untied it with a low bullet from the top slot. Justin Crowe (three goals, two assists) scored on a solo dodge from behind the cage and Steve Pinto finished after scooping up a loose ball to make it 7-4 with 2:33 left in the period.
“At that point, our confidence was sky high,” Crowe said of the 4-0 run. “That was special. I don’t think I’ve ever been part of something like that.”
Arena netted his second to cut the deficit to 7-5 with 10:23 left in the fourth quarter, but that was the last time the Lions were able to beat Pinto. G.Q. Grippo scored two late goals, to go with two early assists, as Connetquot pulled away.
“When we got a bigger lead,” Pinto said, “ I got more relaxed.”