Bears enjoy a rare win over ECC power Vikes

Stonington's Dan Riordan, left, loses his stick as he pursues a loose ball with East Lyme's Brandon Page during Thursday's boys' lacrosse game in Stonington. The Bears beat the Vikings 7-6.
Stonington's Dan Riordan, left, loses his stick as he pursues a loose ball with East Lyme's Brandon Page during Thursday's boys' lacrosse game in Stonington. The Bears beat the Vikings 7-6. Tim Cook/The Day Buy Photo

Stonington - The celebration that took place at midfield Thursday night was no slight to the losing team, but rather a sign of its perennial dominance.

Stonington, the reigning Eastern Connecticut Conference Small Division champion, toppled ECC giant East Lyme High School 7-6 in an interdivisional boys' lacrosse game, scoring six times in a second-half comeback.

"No, never," said Stonington all-state midfielder Dan Riordan, asked if he had beaten the Vikings in his career. "Not in any kind of recent history. We've been going after them the last four years."

"I hope we don't get hung up on it. It's not the last game of the season; we have a big, long season to go," said Stonington coach Paul Deon, formerly an East Lyme assistant. "But this will definitely give us the confidence."

Stonington (3-1) trailed 2-1 at halftime before going on to lead by as many as three in a four-goal third quarter.

East Lyme (3-1) tied things at 5-5 with 8 minutes, 5 seconds remaining, but Stonington scored the next two goals to seal the win against the defending ECC Large Division and tournament champion Vikings.

Riordan made it 6-5 with 7:14 to play, side-arming a shot from the right side of the net on an assist from freshman Will Iorio, with East Lyme down two men at the time due to penalties. The Bears then retained possession on the faceoff and got a pair of point blank shots that were saved by East Lyme goalie Greg Swenson.

Finally, with 4:29 remaining, Stonington's Jack Riordan gained control of the ball after an East Lyme possession and deftly slipped a double-team around midfield, headed into Vikings' territory. He sent it to Zach Poirier, who found sophomore Tyler Grills for his second goal of the game.

East Lyme's Mitchell Andres scored with 40 seconds remaining, his fourth goal of the game, but Stonington's Nick Ballestracci came up with the faceoff and the Bears were able to take all but 17 seconds off the clock, leaving the Vikings with too little time.

"They hustled. They hustled and they fought for every ground ball," East Lyme coach Gary Wight said. "They got us today. We knew they were quick. We expected a battle. We didn't get our rhythm going on offense. And we had too many penalties today (seven).

"They outplayed us today."

Dan Riordan said the Bears were "pumped up" to be within 2-1 of East Lyme at halftime and left the huddle even more excited.

Stonington lost 7-4 to Guilford on Saturday, a loss Riordan called "pretty disappointing." East Lyme had beaten Guilford 11-5 a few days before.

East Lyme then led 1-0 before Thursday's game was a minute old, getting a goal from Adam Opsahl, but Deon urged his team to shake it off.

The Bears got two goals and an assist from Dan Riordan and two goals each from Balestracci and Grills. Jack Riordan added a goal and Iorio had two assists. Gustof Jungelius made 17 saves in goal.

"We have a young attack squad," Dan Riordan said. "But we have complete trust in everybody on the team."

Deon said it's Riordan, following his brother Tom as a midfield star, who quite often helps provide his team with a lift.

"Just his work ethic and he's fast. He's always competing, always bringing people up in a positive way," Deon said.

East Lyme lost three all-state honorees from last year, but Wight said his team will be just fine.

"We just need to come together," Wight said. "It takes a little time."

v.fulkerson@theday.com

East Lyme's Mark Wojcik, left, attempts to break away from Stonington's Nick Balestracci during Thursday night's lacrosse game in Stonington. The Bears beat the Vikings 7-6.
East Lyme's Mark Wojcik, left, attempts to break away from Stonington's Nick Balestracci during Thursday night's lacrosse game in Stonington. The Bears beat the Vikings 7-6. Tim Cook/The Day Buy Photo
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