NORTH STONINGTON — The St. Bernard/Wheeler boys lacrosse team would get all the goals it needed in the first quarter, thanks to a stout performance by junior goalkeeper Danny Schroeder, and defeated ECC Division II rival Stonington High, 8-2, on a rainy and muddy Thursday afternoon at Wheeler High.
Schroeder faced 24 shots on goal and finished with 15 saves. He didn't allow a goal until there was 1:19 left in the third quarter, with his team already ahead by eight.
“Danny Schroeder had an awesome game in goal today, and he has big shoes to fill,” St. Bernard/Wheeler coach James Cook said. “His brother was an All-ECC goalie, and I think this is the year that he's figuring out who he is, and he's becoming his own person. He's really starting to come out of his own shell and having a great season. His save percentage is well over 50 percent right now, and he's doing very, very well.”
With Schroeder turning away eight first-half shots, St. Bernard/Wheeler (5-1, 1-1 Division II) scored four times in the first quarter. Junior Scott Pion continued his superlative season, scoring the first two goals with 7:20 and 5:28 left in the quarter. Roland Long assisted the second goal.
Freshman Cameron Gouvia scored the third goal of the quarter, with 3:16 left, cutting through several defenders winging in a shot. Junior Billy Niles capped the quarter's scoring with 1:09 left, rolling through the crease for a shot and a goal.
Stonington (3-2, 1-2) had chances to score throughout the first three quarters, but couldn't find the back of the net.
“Finishing was definitely a problem today,” Stonington coach Nick Warhola said. “We didn't finish the ball when we got the opportunities. … Danny had a hell of a game today for sure. He made some great stops. But we also didn't take advantage of the opportunities we did have, with the ball in the right spot.”
Both teams went scoreless in the second quarter, but the lack of an attack was more stark for the Bears, given the hole they were in. Stonington also had a man advantage for two minutes because of Wheeler penalties, but struggled to mount an effective attack.
Warhola noted that the team had “a lot of messy turnovers” throughout the game.
“Getting healthy is probably the most important thing to do,” he said. “We have a lot of kids out due to injuries, sicknesses. So getting healthy is going to be key, and then getting back to fundamentals.”
In the third quarter, St. Bernard/Wheeler added to its lead with 8:49 left — Gouveia took advantage of Stonington's confusion on a substitution for an open shot and goal. In the next five minutes, the lead swelled to 8-0 following goals by freshman Cameron Riley, Long and senior Emmett Brady.
The Bears finally got on the board with 1:19 left in the third quarter — senior David McCarthy finished a pass from junior Justin Turner. McCarthy notched a second goal with 7:14 left in the game on a pass from freshman Christian Hudson. Tyler Flynn finished with 11 saves in goal, with Warhola praising him for keeping the Bears in the game.
But the day belonged to the St. Bernard/Wheeler, with Cook attributing some of the success to a heightened atmosphere and crowd for the matchup of locals.
“Today was the game they wanted to play. It was the first game at the Wheeler field, and we got quite the fan base showing up today,” he said. “I'm pretty sure [Stonington and Wheeler have] played a bunch together, so there was definitely the in-town rivalry going on at the same time, so I think this was a very important game for them.”