West Islip’s no-name defense got the job done again.
Lead by captain Anthony Santo and a cast of unknowns, the Lions shut down the high-powered Niskayuna offense Wednesday, defeating the Silver Warriors 9-6 and earning a trip to the state Class A finals Saturday at Middletown High School.
Coming into the state semi-final the Silver Warriors were averaging more than 17 goals per game and defeated Mamaroneck 22-3 this past week to earn a trip to Hofstra to face the Lions.
But Niskayuna would not come close to its season average.
“It was good,” said an understated Santo, when asked about the Lions defensive play against the Silver Warriors. “We were pumped up and played solid.”
His head coach, Scott Craig, was slightly more effusive. “Anthony played a great game,” he said. “Dan Johnson and our other two defensemen also did a great job.”
While Niskayuna star attackman Luke Goldstock put his team ahead 1-0 early in the first quarter, West Islip’s defense responded by allowing only one more goal in the first half. When the Silver Warriors did get shots, goalie Jack Kelly was on the spot making eight saves through the first two quarters
The Lions offense was steady, as goals by Tom Moore, Anthony DeLuca and two from Brendan Smith would give West Islip a 4-2 lead at the half.
With the defense standing tall when Niskayuna had the ball, West Islip’s midfield tandem of Paul Riportella and Jon Reese dominated the faceoff X, limiting the opposition’s possessions.
“I thought Paulie was outstanding and Jon was solid,” Craig said. In fact, Riportella was 9 of 11 on faceoffs and had six groundballs.
“Paul and I have worked real hard and played great today,” said Reese. “We knew coming into the playoffs we were going to be facing a lot of great players. We’ve done a lot of reps and worked on our technique.”
West Islip’s appearance in the state final Saturday will be the team’s sixth over the past nine years. The Lions were state champions in 2006, 2007, 2009 and 2010.1 2 3 4 F West Islip 2 2 3 2 9 Niskayuna 1 1 2 2 6
West Islip scoring: Nick Aponte, 2 goals/3 assists; Tom Moore, 2 goals/2 assists; Brendan Smith, 2 goals/1 assist; Anthony DeLuca 2 goals/1 assist; Ryan Wieczorek, 1 goal