Ward Melville played with a fire that neither mist, nor drizzle nor steady rain could douse.
Coming off its first loss of the season last week against Half Hollow Hills East, the host Patriots scorched previously unbeaten Smithtown West, 10-2, Wednesday night in a Suffolk I duel of top contenders.
“That loss re-focused us,” Ward Melville coach Jay Negus said. “This is a glimpse into our potential. It’s the first complete game we’ve played all year.”
In improving to 8-1, the Patriots put on a dominant two-way clinic. Zach Hobbes scored the first two goals and finished with four while Liam Davenport contributed two goals and an assist as Ward Melville scored the first 10 goals. Alex Mazzone and Frank Ciniglio led a stifling defense that limited the Bulls, who entered the game averaging 12.7 goals, to a pair of tallies late in the fourth quarter. When the Smithtown West (9-1) did manage to get a shot on goal, Collin Krieg stood tall with nine saves.
“We watched a lot of film all week and we knew what they were going to do,” said Ciniglio, who had three clean stick-check takeaways and scored a coast-to-coast goal in the second quarter that made it 4-0. “Since the loss (on April 18), we had our best week of practice and we were all fired up. We’ve had a couple of slow starts this season, but not today.”
Davenport’s goal off a feed from Dylan Pallonetti that just beat the buzzer ending the first quarter produced a 3-0 lead, and the way the Patriots were playing defense, the margin seemed larger. Even though Smithtown West’s Colin Calderone outdueled Mike Giaquinto 11-2 on faceoffs, the Bulls’ offense never found a rhythm.
The Patriots’ stingy defense, which allows just five goals per game, gives the offense a nice safety net. “Whenever we have a lead, we have so much confidence in our defense,” Hobbes said. “They give us a lot of extra breathing room.”
By suffocating their opponents. “Our team defense and our aggressiveness caused them to be a little uncertain on offense,” Mazzone said. “And those early goals set the tone.”
Of the team’s intensity, evident early as the Patriots marched onto the field while the Bulls were warming up and loudly chanted, “Yeah, white!” Mazzone said, “We took this as a playoff game and we showed hustle and grit.”
On a night of fire and rain.