Dan Riley’s goal up the left side of the lacrosse field was the end of a Smithtown West scoring drought — a rare occurrence during a dominant season — but it was an “oddity” in a mostly even defensive battle Saturday.
Riley got his team on the board 41 seconds into the second quarter after a scoreless first and Dan Varello won the ensuing faceoff and ran it up to double the lead six seconds later. The surge helped Smithtown West to a 3-1 win over host Ward Melville in Suffolk I play.
Smithtown West (9-3, 8-2) goalie Ryan Erler was stellar with 16 saves and kept his composure on multiple stops from close range. He denied consecutive driving attempts from behind the net with about four minutes left in the third quarter.
“I think our defense played unbelievable, holding a great high-powered offense to one goal,” said Varello, who won all three faceoffs in the first half. “Our team was doing a very good job of locking down the matchups. Our offense was a little shaky, only three goals, but you’ve only got to win by one to win the game.”
Ward Melville (9-3, 7-3) was also impressive defensively, capitalizing on aggressive backchecking and physical play near goalie D.J. Kellerman, a standout with six saves.
Andrew Lockhart scored the Patriots’ lone goal after spinning off a defender on the left wing side and shooting from a sharp angle to get within one with about 11 minutes left in the third quarter, but Dan Caroussos forced a turnover and ran it 40 yards up the right side two minutes later to go up 3-1.
“You look at the score, you think it’s a hockey game,” Smithtown West coach Bobby Moltisanti said. “But that’s just a testament to the two defensive efforts today and the goalies that are on the field. That’s the game in a microcosm right there.
“It was probably the best defensive effort I’ve seen at Smithtown in nine years. It starts with our goalie in Ryan Erler. Austin Baiardi, Anthony Kehrer, Cam Brunsvold, Matt Kolasinski — these names don’t get mentioned much in the scoring column, but today I told them, ‘the win’s on you guys.’ ”
Erler, a junior, said having a shutout after the first half helped him focus. He added that a strong defense in front of him, one that communicated and readjusted, also gave him confidence.
“I expected a lot of shots from outside,” Erler said. “I knew they had great outside shooters, but I stepped up, stopped them and got the job done. It was an amazing win.”