Waterford wins ECC boys' lacrosse title with dramatic double OT win over Stonington
Montville — Thursday's Eastern Connecticut Conference boys' lacrosse tournament championship game had more twists and turns than a rollercoaster ride.
When the wild ride finally ended, second-seeded Waterford captured its first ECC title since 2019, outlasting No. 4 Stonington 6-5 in dramatic fashion.
"It's another huge win,'' said Waterford coach Paul Deon. "It's only the second ECC title at Waterford. I'm thrilled for the guys. It's nice to see them so elated."
Senior John Zimmermann fired home the game-winning goal with two minutes, 40 seconds left in the second overtime.
"That's one of the happiest moments in my life,'' said Zimmermann. "I can't describe the feeling that just came over me after that goal."
Waterford (15-3) appeared to be in control, seizing a 5-1 lead by halftime.
But the Bears (10-8) staged a frantic comeback, scoring four straight goals, including Ben Massengale's score with one minute, 40 seconds left in regulation that forced overtime.
Neither team could produce the winning goal in the first overtime, with both goalies making terrific saves.
Zimmermann delivered the game's biggest blow.
"It's always a thriller. I've played in other close games in my life. There's nothing like a championship,'' said Waterford goalie Jacob Kozlowski. "I just tried to do my best for the guys on the team. I know they have my back and I've got to have their back."
Stonington won the regular-season meeting, 9-7, on April 14.
Since then, both teams have improved significantly.
Waterford entered Thursday's action riding a six-game winning streak while Stonington carried momentum from upsetting top-seeded East Lyme, the defending champion, in overtime in the ECC semifinals.
Early on, the Lancers had the edge.
Freshman CJ Landry scooped up a loose ball near midfield and took off toward the Stonington goal. Once in prime shooting range, Landry unleashed a laser and the ball rippled the back of the net for the game-opening goal about two minutes in.
Senior goalie Kozlowski led a stingy and disruptive defense, making several spectacular saves to keep the Bears off the scoreboard. He was named the winner of the James J. Courtney Award that goes to the most outstanding player in the championship game.
The Bears fell into a 5-1 hole by halftime.
Landry struck a deadly blow by firing in a goal just before the halftime buzzer. It was his third goal of the first half.
Zimmermann also scored, taking advantage of a man-up situation to make it 3-0. Junior Trevor Stringer had the assist.
Stonington finally broke through the defensive wall and got on the board, as Nathan Huynh scored a man-up goal to cut the gap to 3-1 in the second quarter.
Fifty-four seconds later, Waterford responded. Junior Jackson Huta converted from close range at the 5:03 mark.
Things got really interesting in the second half.
Stonington finally found some offensive rhythm and scored two goals — one from Ethan Mahoney, the other from Tyler Simao — 1:14 apart late in the third quarter to cut the gap to 5-3.
The Bears kept up the pressure in the fourth quarter, dominating possession.
Kozlowski made a big stop and then smothered another hard low shot. The Bears misfired on a few other good chances.
The Bears finally broke through again, as Huynh and Massengale scored to stun the Lancers and force overtime.