Braddick makes the saves, Cadets move onto finals
“After the first period, we could have played with our eyes closed and still done the job our communication was that good,” St. Joseph High defenseman Kyle Sousa said after coach Joe Izzo’s 13th-seeded Cadets defeated Stonington High, 9-6, in the Division S semifinals at Cheshire High’s Alumni Field on Wednesday.
And, with sophomore Mike Braddick instinctively making save-after-save in the final two periods, St. Joseph (12-7) stonewalled the top-seeded Bears (15-4) to advance to Saturday’s 4 p.m. state final at Brien McMahon High in Norwalk.
The Cadets will meet 15th-seeded Weston High (12-8), a 10-5 winner over sixth-seeded Morgan of Clinton, in the other semifinal.
With the score 7-6 in St. Joseph’s favor with 9:45 remaining in regulation, Braddock stopped Will Iorio from 15 yards out dead center at the eight-minute mark.
Stonington’s Gustaf Jungnelius was just as tough to beat, as he saved a shot by the Cadets’ Jeff Marcantonio, and then Josiah Wilson, in the sixth minute.
Rick Giordano gave St. Joseph some breathing room with a goal off a Marcantonio assist with five minutes remaining.
Stonington coach Paul Deon called for timeout with 3:50 left.
Out of the break, the Bears’ Zach Poirier swung around the cage and pegged the ball to Aaron Williams, free out front.
Williams released the ball quickly from five feet out, but Braddick was there to make the stop.
“Our defense played its heart out,” said Braddick, giving kudos to his main compadres, Kurtis Mudre, Jorge Yoguez and Souza.
“We weren’t communication well early with the guys up top. Once that was solved, we had some big stops and I’m glad all the hard work has paid off.”
St. Joseph made it 9-6 when Colin Powell scored off a pass from Ryan Corcoran, while being pile-driven to the ground from behind.
That goal came at the 2:03 mark, and Braddick stopped Iorio at 1:30 and the clock wound down to zero.
“We did a lot of talking in the break after the first period,” Izzo said. “We gave up a couple of soft goals, but our communication got better. Then, we settled into our game.”
St. Joseph led the entire way, but couldn’t shake the Bears in a spirited contest.
Mike Brennan gave the Cadets a 1-0 lead at 7:48, and Powell made it 2-0 at 3:16.
Stonington’s Tyler Grills snuck one in at 2:07, before Dan Riordan dodged a defender and one-timed a shot into the net with 14.7 left in the opening period.
Corcoran scored off a fine pass from Powell at 11:15 of the second for a 3-2 lead, but the Bears’ Grills knotted the score at 9:19.
The Cadets midfield, led by Ryan Mulligan, Zach Psaras and Bobby Brennan, made things difficult for Stonington the rest of the half, and St. Joseph extended its lead.
A fine passing sequence found Peter Bashar scoring from the top of the circle at 5:20.
Yoguez’ hustle play kept the ball in Stonington territory, and Corcoran fired home a rebound of Jungnelius' save on Giordano, and it was 5-3 at the 3:30 mark.
A breakdown led to Nick Balestracchi scoring for the Bears, but Bashar got that tally back with a cross-armed shot from the left wing for a 6-4 lead that extended into the break.
Stonington drew within 6-5 at 3:49, from a long unexpected shot from Riordan that skipped into the net.
St. Joseph’s Mulligan and Filippo Petrini owned the draws, and off a Mulligan groundball, Giordano scored for a 7-5 advantage with 2:10 left in the third period.
After a scrum in front of the Cadet cage, Grills broke in cleanly and scored to set up the dramatic ending.