Mills Boys Outlast HK, Advance to Class M Semis
The second-seeded Lewis Mills boys soccer team posted a 2-0 victory over No. 7 Haddam-Killingworth on Saturday night to advance to the CIAC Class M semifinals.
Senior Matt Gilbert scored the eventual game-winner, pouncing on a botched clearance and sending it home from distance to give the Spartans the only goal they would need. Senior Ryan Huydic added an insurance goal late and Jackson Lord posted the shutout in goal for the Spartans.
"I'm feeling good, I'm feeling good for the team, they battled and I hope they aren't done," Lewis Mills coach Ben Kulas said. "I'm happy for them, but our goal today was to get back to the semifinals. Now our goal is to get to the finals."
H-K (14-3-2) put some pressure on Mills in the early stages of the game but the Spartans eventually began to possess the ball and find some seams in the defense. Mills hit the cross bar on a corner and forced Cougars goalie Jack Spooner to make a number of key saves. It was a miscue by Spooner that led to Mills' first goal as he didn't get enough on a clearance and it came to Gilbert outside the top of the box. Seeing Spooner out of position, Gilbert lasered one home near the right post to give the Spartans a 1-0 lead.
"I saw the goalie come out and he kicked it and it was right to my feet, so I took a touch, looked up, saw he was scrambling to get back on his feet and it hit it and it went in," Gilbert said. "It was a physical game and we were able to win the physical and mental battles and move on."
Mills maintained the lead and Huydic iced it in the closing minutes after H-K's center back and Spooner both fanned on clearing a bouncing ball. Huydic gained control and calmly slid a shot into the open net for a 2-0 lead.
The win sets up a semifinal showdown with Ellington on Wednesday at Willow Brook Park in New Britain at 6 p.m. The sixth seed, Ellington has played in three of the last four Class M finals, winning the championship in 2014. Last season the Knights lost to Brookfield, 1-0, in the title game. Ellington (15-3) has knocked off Woodland, 1-0, and No. 3 Stonington, 2-1, in penalty kicks to advance to yet another state tournament showdown with Lewis Mills.
The teams met in the tournament three straight years starting with a 1-0 Ellington victory in 2013. The Knights won again, 2-0, in 2014 in the quarterfinals before the Spartans got a touch of revenge, 1-0, in the second round of 2015 when they advanced to the semifinals. If Mills is to get to its first Class M final since 2000 and fourth ever, it will have to defeat its recent nemesis to do it.
"We have our old friend Ellington waiting for us," Kulas said. "We are going to have to play very well against a good team to get back to the finals. We haven't been to the final in 17 years so hopefully these guys can do it."
Gilbert thinks the Spartans will be ready.
"We are at our strongest right now, best we have been all season," Gilbert said. "Wit the heart we have, any obstacle that comes up before us we just push right through it."