Hartford boys lax back in final

By BEN HOOKE

Valley News Correspondent

Published: 06-12-2024 4:00 PM

WHITE RIVER JUNCTION — The Hartford Hurricanes waited 24 years for a first title in boys lacrosse.

They’d like to make the wait a lot shorter for the next one.

Top-seeded Hartford overcame a spirited performance from fourth-seeded Milton to roll to a 10-4 semifinal victory at the Alumni Athletic Complex and return to the VPA Division II state championship game for a third consecutive year.

The defending champions started slow but picked up steam, building their lead in every period as the visiting Yellowjackets ran out of gas.

“Really fun game tonight,” Hurricanes bench boss Grant Whiteway said after the game. “I’ve known Trevor (Wagar, Milton coach) for a long time, and he’s a great coach. His guys fought really hard.”

Looking to blunt the prolific Hartford attack, Milton used a possession-based strategy that focused on keeping the ball away from Hartford’s sticks for long stretches, leading to marathon possessions against the Hartford defense.

“Big test of discipline tonight. (Milton) passed really well, and we had to adjust,” said Whiteway.

Ezra Mock got Hartford on the board first, fighting through contact to score a tough shot for the opener halfway through the quarter.

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Milton had a quick answer. Luke Bushey fought off two defenders and, from long range, fired a low shot that skipped off the ground and under Hartford netminder Graham Thompson for the equalizer.

Hartford quickly got back in front, going ahead via a close-range finish from Ryan Spaulding, and the tone was set for the evening.

The second quarter started with probably the finest stretch of the day for the visiting Yellowjackets. Off the opening draw, Milton controlled the ball for 2two minutes, 28 seconds, wearing the Hartford defense down until Brock Bushey fired home from close range to notch a big equalizer.

But if anything, the goal just seemed to wake Hartford up. Three straight goals from Tyler Spaulding, Austin St. Peter and Brayden Trombly punctuated a dominant eight-minute stretch as Hartford took a 5-2 lead into the break.

Trombly struck again with the goal of the night in the opening minute of the third quarter, finding space on the left to send a bullet of a shot from long range to the top corner past Milton goalie Griffin Smith.

Even then Milton still had some life left.

Two goals in quick succession seemed to signal a comeback, but Mock, a senior, responded by fighting to get space and firing another low shot to the bottom corner that found the back of the net for a comeback-killing goal.

With Milton out of gas, Hartford tacked on two more goals to reach the final margin.

Mock led the line for Hartford, scoring three times. Mock is part of a class that Whiteway said “have seen every big game and know what to do in the big spots.” The team’s senior core includes Mock, Trombly and midfielders Bryce Soboleski and Brody Tyburski.

Hartford will look to win its second straight title at 4:30 p.m. on Saturday at Norwich University’s Sabine Field when it takes on Harwood.