STRATFORD — The Bunnell boys lacrosse team was certainly tested.
Against cross-town rival Stratford, the Bulldogs faced six man-up advantages by the Red Devils, including a two-man opportunity late in the third quarter, and they stopped all but one — which occurred with the game all but decided — as Bunnell secured a hard-fought 11-5 SWC victory on a rainy Tuesday night at the BHS field.
The Bulldogs (3-5) also ceded the face-off edge to Stratford (2-6) but despite all that, they came through on the strength of their penalty kill and hat tricks from Anthony Trovarelli and William Heiden.
“We suffered through some tough penalties but the key for us was killing off those penalties,” Bunnell’s first-year head coach Alex Wiser said. “When you have a lot of penalties it can get really frustrating and it can go south but we almost turned it into a positive. We responded to the adversity and that’s a great testament to our character.”
With the win, Bunnell captured the Stratford Lacrosse Challenge trophy for the second time in three years.
The Red Devils grabbed a 2-1 lead after the first quarter before the Bulldogs netted four straight goals to take a 5-2 at the end of the half. Heiden had two goals during the run and Trovarelli and Zack Souza added one goal apiece.
In the third quarter, Stratford cut the lead to three on two occasions, at 5-3 (11:14) and at 7-4 (5:57). Unfortunately for the Red Devils, Bunnell had an answer each time they inched closer and the straw that broke the camel’s back might have been when they squandered the 30 second two-man advantage late in the quarter.
“We certainly had some chances,” said Stratford’s second-year head coach Brian Mayglothling, who has a young team with only one senior on the roster. “We had some silly turnovers, we couldn’t possess the ball enough on offense and we gave up a lot of transition goals — which we haven’t done very much this year so that was a little surprising. Obviously, we’re going to have to shore up some things on both ends of the field moving forward.”
Bunnell outscored the Red Devils 5-2 in the third with Trovarelli the first to complete his hat trick off an assist from Brian Carrafiello (1:24). Carrafiello chipped in with three assists along with Jacob Kudysch and Charles Stewart.
Trovarelli said the offense made the most of its chances but there’s still room for improvement.
“We had a really good team win tonight,” the senior midfielder said. “We’re on a two-game winning streak now and we’re only going to get better.”
Added Kudysch, a senior captain and midfielder who Wiser said is the pulse of the program: “Tonight’s win was huge. We started our season rough but we’re starting to band together. We’re going to take this momentum and ride it out for the rest of the season.”
In addition to his team’s defensive effort, Wiser also gave credit to sophomore goalie Quinton Budnick, who is in his first year as the varsity backstop and finished with seven saves. Wiser said the super sophomore is playing lights out, like a savvy senior.
Budnick’s counterpart, sophomore Thomas Cox, accounted for 10 saves in net. On offense, the Red Devils were paced by junior midfielder Tyler Ciccia’s hat trick.
Bunnell’s offense saw six different players hit the back of the net with Souza scoring twice, both in the first half.
“All six guys were working equally hard,” said Wiser, who was an assistant at Weston prior to ascending to the top spot at Bunnell. “We played with a lot of passion tonight.”
Stratford will get a rematch with the Bulldogs in a non-league contest on Saturday, May 11, at 1 p.m. at Penders Field.