Tyler Clark’s overtime goal lifts Staples boys lacrosse over Ridgefield, into Class L final

FAIRFIELD — Tyler Clark dove toward the front of the net and knew his shot went in. His only worry was that he’d landed in the crease, which would’ve waved off what he called the best feeling in the world.

His goal stood, 3:45 into overtime at Rafferty Stadium on Wednesday, sending Staples into the CIAC Class L championship game with a 9-8 semifinal win over Ridgefield.

“They ended our season last year,” Clark said, and the Tigers beat Staples 4-3 in the first round last year on the way to the Class L title. “We have a long memory. We remember some of the stuff they did after that. We wanted them this year, bad.”

That avenged, second-seeded Staples, ranked third in the GameTimeCT Top 10 Poll, will play in its fifth CIAC final, seeking its first postseason title of any kind. No. 1 Darien awaits, Sunday at 3 p.m. at Sacred Heart University; the Blue Wave beat Fairfield Prep 16-9.

“All honesty, this was our sight at the start of the season, all last season,” Wreckers coach Will Koshansky said.

“It’s awesome that we’re going there. Now we’ve got to finish the job.”

Fifth-ranked, third-seeded Ridgefield finishes 15-5. Coach Roy Colsey declined to comment.

Staples (18-3) won the overtime faceoff — Henry Dodge, one of the top faceoff men in the state, helped the Wreckers shut Ridgefield down without a shot in the second quarter — and called time out, but Tigers goalie Matt Shepard made a save.

But Ridgefield’s possession ended after the Wreckers’ Ryan Thompson forced a turnover. Staples set up again, and Derek Sale finally fed Clark below the goal line extended to Shepard’s right to set up the winning goal with 15 seconds on the clock.

“We practice what we want to do in overtime throughout the season. We played an overtime game earlier in the year, had a possession in that game,” Koshansky said. “We really focused on what are we going to do in overtime and be prepared for the moment

“We didn’t have a time out, but the guys knew what we wanted to run, and they generated and stuck it home.”

Charlie Howard scored three goals for Staples. His first was the 90th point of his season, setting the program record.

Ryan Colsey scored four goals for Ridgefield, and younger brother Kyle had a goal and two assists. Kyle’s goal tied the game with 6:01 left after Staples took an 8-5 lead to the fourth quarter.

Darien senior Riley Strub led the offense in the second semifinal with four goals and two assists. Coach Jeff Brameier said he has tried Strub in several different spots before finally putting him back at his natural position, attack.

“It was pretty fun” taking on different roles, Strub said; he was still playing some on Tighe Cummiskey’s wing on faceoffs on Wednesday. “I’m thankful for the opportunity from Coach B for putting me on the wing, then to righty attackman as a lefty.”

It was an 8-8 game when Darien’s Alec Medwar forced a turnover. Strub scored in transition with 2:11 to go in the third quarter.

With Cummiskey winning draw after draw, that Strub goal was the first of eight in a row in 3 minutes, 42 seconds for Darien.

“There’s no excuses. The better team won today,” Fairfield Prep coach Graham Niemi said.

“They’re so good. I thought if we maybe scored a couple of goals early — we had some good opportunities, missed the cage, goalie (Cam Weibel, solid in Darien’s net) made some saves, a combination — if it’s a different score, maybe, later in the game, it’s tighter. We didn’t have enough to come back.”

PLAYER OF THE FIRST GAME

Staples junior attackman Tyler Clark was the overtime hero, converting a pass from Derek Sale.

PLAYER OF THE SECOND GAME

Riley Strub, a Darien senior attackman, “did some great things,” said coach Jeff Brameier.

HEARTS HEAVY

The Jesuits for the past three and a half weeks have been dealing with the death of junior midfielder Jimmy McGrath, who died on May 14; a Milford teen is charged with his murder.

“I’m just proud of the team,” Niemi said. “What we’ve had to endure just to be here: It’s been a lot. It’s a lot.

“They’ve been practicing great. Just to be able to do that after what we’ve been through, I’ll never forget this team for that.”

QUOTABLE

“I’ve been thinking about it since I was a freshman, since playing (Darien Youth) Lacrosse. It’s amazing.” —Strub, on going to the final

mfornabaio@ctpost.com; @fornabaioctp

STAPLES 9, RIDGEFIELD 8

RIDGEFIELD3 0 2 3 0—8

STAPLES0 4 4 0 1—9

Records: Ridgefield 15-5; Staples 18-3. Scoring: R—Ryan Colsey 4 goals, Kyle Colsey 1 goal 2 assists, Luke Winkler 1g 1a, Josiah deGrasse 1g, Chris Reinhardt 1g; S—Charlie Howard 3g, Tyler Clark 2g 1a, Aidan Best 3a, Derek Sale 1g 1a, Ryan Thompson 1g, Leo Sequenzia 1g ,Gavin Rothenberg 1g, Michael Nealon 1a. Goalies: R—Matthew Shepard (11 saves); S—Josh Marcus (4). Shots: R—16; S—37.

DARIEN 16, FAIRFIELD PREP 9

FAIRFIELD PREP1 4 3 1—9

DARIEN1 5 5 5—16

Records: Fairfield Prep 15-5; Darien 20-2. Scoring: FP—Pierson Delcristo 3 goals, Peter Grandolfo 2g, Joseph Flores de Meneses 2 assists, Marco Firmender 1g, John Duffy 1g, Tyler Fox 1g, Luke Lombardo 1g; D—Riley Strub 4g 2a, Joe Cesare 4g 1a, Matt Minicus 3g 1a, Brady Pokorny 3g, Christian Alliegro 2g, Jeremiah Stafford 2a, Tighe Cummiskey 1a, Finn Pokorny 1a. Goalies: FP—Greg Hilinski (8 saves); D—Cam Weibel (10). Shots: FP—34; D—38.