Space is important to the Shelton High boys’ soccer team. Lots of space.
With many creative players on their side, the Gaels like to use as much of the field as possible.
The No. 3-seeded Gaels opened with a wide formation in Monday night’s CIAC Class LL first-round home matchup with the No. 30-seed Hartford Public Owls.
Shelton worked the ball around, stressing out the Owls’ defense and then 14 minutes in the Gaels began their assault when Spencer Gangi scored the first of his two goals off a rebound.
When they were done, Shelton had a 5-0 win and a trip into the second round where they will play host to Trumbull on Wednesday at 7 p.m.
The 14th-seed Eagles defeated No. 19 Cheshire, 2-0, also at home on Monday.
“I think it took a little bit of time to get our game going,” said Shelton coach Isaac Montalvo. “You never know when you play a team outside your conference. They could have some dangerous players, so we wanted to feel them out at first.”
Gangi’s 10th goal on the season sparked his team, who controlled play pretty much for the entire 80 minutes, getting off 26 shots (14 in the first half and 12 more in the second).
“We were a little nervous coming into this game because we didn’t know what to expect,” Gangi said. “Once we got into the game, we were fine. After reaching the final last year (before losing to Farmington, 3-0), we’ve set some high expectations.”
Defensively, the Gaels never allowed a shot to be taken on junior goalkeeper Isaac Garcia.
Gangi found the ball near his right foot after a shot from Vin Mallozzi was knocked right out in front by Owls’ keeper Alton Lampart, who made seven first-half saves before giving way to Andrew Reid, who turned aside the same total in the second half.
Mallozzi gave Shelton a 2-0 lead at the 20:19 mark when Chris Conrad sent a ball into the box from the left corner and Mallozzi finished nicely.
Gangi’s second score, off a feed from Tyler Carvalho, gave Shelton a 3-0 lead with a little over nine minutes to play in the half.
Goals by Carvalho and reserve Mark Gergely highlighted the second half, as Shelton improved its record to 15-3-1. Hartford Public, which qualified for postseason play for its second consecutive year, fell to 6-10-1.
“We knew very early on that they were going to spread us out on defense and then attack,” said Hartford Public head coach Tyler Champ. “We had a nice season and it’s always a reward to make it into the postseason. Like most inner-city teams we’re just striving all the time to find consistency. Luckily, we’re a young team and I only lose two seniors. We need to keep building and getting stronger.”
Meanwhile, Shelton has a second-round game with a familiar opponent.
“They’re always competitive,” Montalvo said of Trumbull, FCIAC finalists the past two seasons. “We’ve played them before in the postseason. We have one day to get ready.”