SOUTHINGTON - For Southington senior attacker Evan Johanns, the fourth time proved to be the charm.
Battling through cold weather and an inefficient shooting night, Johanns missed three straight shots on a key Southington man advantage in Monday’s boys lacrosse game against Newington. Clinging to a one goal lead in the fourth quarter, Johanns and the Blue Knights were desperately looking for separation, but Johanns kept coming up empty.
Then his fourth try found the back of the net, and the goals came in bunches immediately after.
“I needed that really bad,” Johanns said of his goal to put Southington ahead 11-9 and squash the Indians’ comeback bid. “The whole game I was missing shots. Once I started landing shots and getting a feel for it, it was just one after the next.”
Johanns’ first goal of the fourth sparked a stretch of three straight in the decisive fourth quarter to give the Blue Knights a 13-9 win. Johanns, who finished with eight goals on the night, now has 17 through his first three games, though he believes he would have had a lot less had that one goal in the fourth not snuck in.
“That was what started it,” Johanns said. “As soon as that first one went in I thought ‘OK, I’ve got this.’”
Newington (2-2) battled through the second half, erasing a three-goal deficit and tying the game four different times, three of which came in the third quarter, but was never able to take the lead.
“I thought we brought the intensity we needed in the second half,” Dan Pestrichello said after tallying a team-high four goals for the Indians. “The first half we started out a little slow. We didn’t work the ball and were trying to force some things here and there. But then we got into a groove and were moving it around.”
Newington came out of the second half trailing by three, but two goals by Petrichello and one by Matthew Bradley tied the game less than five minutes into the quarter.
“We were really happy with how we played in the third quarter,” Indians head coach Zach Zarookian said. “That was our best quarter of the game. But we kind of fell apart at the end. We didn’t have a lot of depth.”
That depth was depleted late in the first half when midfielder Mike Zapatka left the game with a concussion, and would not return. Still, without their sophomore midfielder, the Indians continued to fight and carried a tie game into the fourth quarter, when senior midfielder Eli Steindl put home a circus goal for the Blue Knights (2-1), falling to the turf as he fired a shot past Newington goaltender Sam Davies.
“That was insane,” Johanns said of his fellow senior’s go-ahead goal. “I’ve never seen him do that in my life. He just went to the goal and ripped it. That was awesome.”
Southington originally held a 3-1 lead after a goal by Jack Tedone, but a pair of Newington goals by Matthew Bradley, the latter coming with less than 30 seconds remaining in the first quarter pulled the Indians to within 4-3.
Looking for separation, the Blue Knights opened the second quarter with two straight goals in the first two minutes, one on a breakaway from Johanns, and another on a pretty move from Matt Thompson, who faked a pass before ripping home the team’s sixth goal, which gave Southington its largest lead of the game.
That lead evaporated by the end of the third, but the Blue Knights held tough on its home turf to notch its 11th win over the Indians since 2007.
“We had a good fourth quarter and were able to close the door on them,” Southington head coach Ron Chase said. “We talked to the offense about closing the door which we weren’t able to do last game against North Haven, and they did that today.”
They closed the door thanks to Johanns, who put in his second goal of the fourth with 5:16 left on another man advantage, ringing a shot off the post and in to match the Blue Knight’s largest lead of the game at 12-9.
Johanns still wasn’t done. The senior sent in the exclamation point on a game-changing fourth quarter with a missile of a goal with less than two minutes left to go ahead 13-9 and put the game out of reach for the Indians, who flirted with their first win against the Blue Knights in over a decade.
“We’ve been playing this team for years and we wanted to beat them,” Pestrichello said of Newington’s chronic tormentors. “We gave it everything, and it just wasn’t enough this time. But we’ll be back stronger.”