Hand tops Guil­ford to reach Class L fi­nal

Hand downs Guil­ford in semis af­ter los­ing twice in reg­u­lar sea­son

New Haven Register (New Haven, CT) - - FRONT PAGE - By Joe Morelli

CLASS L BOYS SOC­CER: HAND 1, GUIL­FORD 0

WEST HAVEN — For the sec­ond straight sea­son, Hand and Guil­ford squared off for the right to play in the Class L boys soc­cer state cham­pi­onship game.

The two South­ern Con­necti­cut Con­fer­ence ri­vals bat­tled for a third time this sea­son Mon­day night. Guil­ford swept the reg­u­lar sea­son, but Hand turned the ta­bles to return to the L fi­nal for the sec­ond straight year.

Owen McShane’s first-half goal was all the No. 10 seeded Tigers needed to ad­vance 1-0 over No. 3 Guil­ford at Ken Strong Sta­dium.

“I didn’t think they were go­ing to score at all,” McShane said. “In the back with Tommy LaTorre, Liam Ak­ers and Cole Finke, we’ve been solid ever since Soc­cer Ex­treme (a pre­sea­son camp) all to­gether. There’s no way you can break us down.”

It was the third straight shutout for the Tigers (18-3-2), who are one step away from suc­cess­fully de­fend­ing their Class L state cham­pi­onship. Stand­ing in the way is No. 4 Ma­suk in the fi­nals Satur­day at a site and time to be de­ter­mined.

“This is a hard-work­ing group that doesn’t quit,” Hand in­terim coach An­thony Mancini said.

Mon­day’s win was also on the same field where Hand won the SCC tour­na­ment ti­tle 11 days

ear­lier. The Tigers are in the midst of a seven-game post­sea­son win­ning streak.

The In­di­ans (17-3-1) ap­plied a lot of pres­sure over the lat­ter stages of the sec­ond half, but Hand’s de­fense rose to the oc­ca­sion. And what­ever those Tigers couldn’t get to, the last line of de­fense did.

Goal­keeper Thomas Hobin came up with four cru­cial saves in the sec­ond half, in­clud­ing one in the game’s fi­nal sec­onds to pre­serve the shutout.

“Timmy made two great saves in the last seven or eight minutes, held his line and did a great job,” Mancini said. “They put a lot of pres­sure on us and he saved us.”

Said McShane: “Tommy Hobin has been work­ing his butt off all year, just right place at the right time. He read it. No wor­ries back there, no wor­ries.”

In both reg­u­lar-sea­son meet­ings, Hand never led against Guil­ford. In fact, the In­di­ans had rarely trailed at all through­out the sea­son.

The Tigers took the lead on the game’s sec­ond shot less than 7 minutes into the game. McShane scored off a scram­ble in front of the net af­ter Lee Wil­der­man served the ball into the box.

“The keeper (Ian Slat­tery) had a good save, but I was right there to fin­ish it,” McShane said. “Got it right off the re­bound.”

Said Mancini: “It’s so im­por­tant to get the first goal. They had to get a lit­tle more ag­gres­sive and couldn’t sit back. If they get that first goal, they like to put nine or 10 back be­hind the ball.”

Guil­ford kept try­ing to get the equal­izer, even­tu­ally sacri­fic­ing de­fense — it’s forte through­out the sea­son — to get num­bers up on of­fense.

“We didn’t have a shot on goal the en­tire first half and we didn’t have a shot on goal for half of the sec­ond half ei­ther un­til we went with three up top,” Guil­ford coach Joe Ma­her said. “Their mid­field won the game for them. Their mid­field ba­si­cally over­whelmed ours. We couldn’t con­nect any passes and as a re­sult, you don’t get any shots.”

Guil­ford had a chance to knot it up mid­way through the sec­ond half. A fierce col­li­sion be­tween Hobin and Guil­ford’s Eric LePeak re­sulted in Hobin get­ting a yel­low card.

Clay­ton Knibbs re­placed Hobin for Guil­ford’s free kick and shot at­tempt that went wide. Hobin then reen­tered the game.

While Hand tries to win its sec­ond straight state ti­tle, Guil­ford fell short of reach­ing its first state fi­nal since 2000.

“I didn’t ex­pect to be in this po­si­tion tonight or be a three seed, to tell you the truth, and get three homes games (in the state tour­na­ment),” Ma­her said. “My hat is off to these kids, they had a great year. Hope­fully next year, we can build off of this.”

John Vana­core / For Hearst con­necti­cut Me­dia

Hand's Owen McShane (20) and Scott Testori (10) cel­e­brate af­ter McShane's first-half goal against Guil­ford on Mon­day.

John Vana­core / For Hearst con­necti­cut Me­dia

Hand's Owen McShane, left, and Guil­ford's Mete Yan­bul bat­tle for the ball dur­ing their Class L semi­fi­nal on Mon­day.

John Vana­core / For Hearst con­necti­cut Me­dia

Hand's Ni­cholas Porte, right, and Guil­ford's Mete Yan­bul bat­tle for the ball dur­ing their Class L semi­fi­nal in West Haven on Mon­day.

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