When the equipment was loaded onto the bus for the short drive from Ward Melville High School in East Setauket to Stony Brook’s LaValle Stadium Saturday morning, one item was left behind.
“We forget the white board,” Patriots coach Jay Negus said with a chuckle. “I was going to draw up some new plays. Instead, I just went with something old.”
At Ward Melville, what’s new is always what’s old. The Patriots used their trademark defense and patient offense to defeat Massapequa, 8-5, and capture their second consecutive Long Island Class A championship before a crowd of more than 1,500. It was the 18th Long Island championship for Ward Melville (18-2) which will face Lakeland/Panas in the state Class A semifinals Wednesday at 4 p.m. at SUNY Albany.
Zach Hobbes had a hat trick, including two tallies during a game-turning 5-0 run that spanned the third and fourth quarters. Perry Cassidy made 11 saves, four during a crucial three-minute stretch to close out the third quarter. “That was a momentum shifter,” Cassidy said. “I just had to stay focused the whole time.”
The Chiefs (16-3) led 4-3 on a man-up goal by Timmy Ley with 6:18 left in the first half. They did not score again until 6:21 remained in the game. By that time, the Patriots were in control, thanks to a defense led by Andrew McKenna and Alex Mazzone. “They’ve been great all year,” Cassidy said. “They kept the alleys clear and gave me shots I could see.”
Hobbes tied the game at 4 with an unassisted goal to the short side with 9:21 left in the third. The Patriots took the lead for good on a pretty give-and-go goal by Andrew Lockhart, his second. He cut to the slot and finished a feed from Dylan Pallonetti, who had a goal and two assists.
That lead was in peril late in the period when the Chiefs peppered Cassidy. They took 10 shots in the quarter and outshot the Patriots 29-19 for the game, thanks to Angelo Petrakis’s 12-5 advantage on faceoffs. “We struggled on ground balls,” Negus said. “To give a team like Massapequa extra chances puts lot of pressure on the defense.”
It also put a premium on efficient offense. Whatever new wrinkles Negus was going to draw up were dismissed because of equipment malfunction. “Just went to what we worked on in practice,” Hobbes said. “We were a little hesitant in the first half. But we picked it up in the second half. The defense gave the offense a ton of confidence.”
That defense held Massapequa without a goal for 23:21 and the Patriots broke the game open with three fourth-quarter goals in less than three minutes. Liam Davenport scored unassisted, Hobbes converted a pass from Matthew Grillo and Eddie Munoz iced it with an unassisted goal with 6:46 left.“We got some long possessions and capitalized on our opportunities in the second half,” Hobbes said.
Those goals put Cassidy in a comfort zone. “Our defense was incredible,” the goalie said. “I couldn’t see us giving up four goals at that point.”
Negus said his vaunted man-to-man defense “did a great job and we took care of the ball, “ noting that the Patriots committed only nine turnovers. “The defense dug in and did what they’re supposed to do — create offense by making stops.”
Just the way the coach would have drawn it up.