Written by Mike Kelly.
The defending 2021 Shoreline Conference Champion HK Cougars Boys lacrosse team defeated Valley Regional 10-3 Tuesday evening, May 3, 2022, pushing their record to 8-1 on the season. This was the second victory for the Cougars over Valley this year. Once again, as is becoming a pattern for this team, the HK defense performed superbly throughout the contest, attacking, harassing and generally disrupting Valley at every turn. From the middies all the way back to the steel curtain that is goalie Braden Civiello, the Warriors had no answer for the Cougars D.
Offensively HK came to play as well, at one point ringing up seven unanswered goals before Valley could muster a response. In addition, Cooper Pitts performed at a very high level at X, gaining the majority of possessions against a conference leader at the face-off position (maybe the leader no longer).
The Brothers Phipps got things started early, Alex to Cory, for the 1-0 HK lead. After Valley rallied back to tie, middie Nolan Braren backed down his defender above the left side of the crease, spinning and firing a shot into the top left corner, 2-1 HK. Early in the second period C. Phipps again got free over the middle for his second goal, 3-1 HK. The Cougars then called an isolation play for attackman Aaron McLeod, who rolled from X and fired a right-handed worm burner that found only net, 4-1 HK.
With four minutes left in the second, the Cougars offense displayed what was perhaps the most clinical level of efficiency and selfless teamwork they have shown all season. Indeed, if there were any remnants of wind left in Valley’s sails, it was all but eliminated at that point. LSM Jack Insalaco coasted up field, passed the ball to C. Phipps, who then dished it to brother Alex, who then dropped it off to middie Gunnar Howes, who then dished it again to McLeod for the one-timer, 5-1 HK, a pinballing thing of beauty that left the Valley defense flummoxed and defeated.
Moments later the Cougars team again demonstrated superior hustle and teamwork when Howes poked the ball away from a Valley defender during a lazy clear. Attackman C. Phipps scooped up the loosey and dished it back to Howes for the strike, 6-1 HK. Hard work does indeed pay.
HK closed out the first half with another score in the waning seconds when Howes found Braren above the top left side of the crease, 7-1 HK.
Midway through the third period Howes dodged from GLE and popped one in above the right post, extending the HK lead to 8-1. Valley answered with two quick goals, but that’s all they would get. HK responded during a man-up advantage of their own, when Howes again delivered one to Braren for the strike, 9-3 HK.
The game got a bit chippy through the fourth period as frustration for the losing side Warriors seemed to mount. Again and again the HK defense turned back any attempt at a comeback, despite several man-up opportunities for the Warriors. They simply had no answer. Late in the fourth C. Phipps dodged past his long-pole defender, rolled back and fired a sweet lefty into the goal for the final score, 10-3 HK. North Branford next on the agenda.
Photos by Liz Griswold.