When Raf Correa was rejected by Joe Vogt in the second quarter while attempting to shoot high on the Caldwell goalie, Montville's senior attackman made a quick mental note and filed it away for future reference.
That time almost never came.
Just 15 seconds before having to submit his material to the shredder, Correa got his second opportunity on a quick curl from the backside. This time he fired low and connected in those final ticks to give Montville an 8-7 win over Caldwell in a non-divisional contest Saturday morning in Montville.
"I had the opportunity earlier in the game and I went high and the goalie stuffed it. You learn from your mistakes," Correa said. "It's very emotional. Nice to be a senior captain and score the game- winning goal to keep our undefeated streak going."
Montville avenged a 15-8 loss to Caldwell early last season to improve to 3-0, while Caldwell fell to 3-1.
Junior attackman Jake Haimson scored three goals and Brian McCormack and Ryan O'Lear each contributed one goal and two assists for Montville. Junior attackman Billy Pierce netted four goals for Caldwell, which also got one goal and one assist from Anthony Maddaloni, Mike Brennan and Ryan Slane.
Haimson, who combines quick feet and shifty moves with a fast release, opened two-goal leads twice in the fourth quarter, but watched feisty Caldwell cut the deficit back to one within seconds of each goal.
Pierce brought the Chiefs to within 6-5 with 10:40 to play with a transition goal off the faceoff, and Maddaloni made it 7-6 when he dodged a man and connected from 10 yards out with 9:03 remaining. Slane knotted the game at 7-7 on a fast-break goal with 1:56 remaining that was launched with a turnover and ground ball by defenseman Steven Machi.
"Before we went in we knew it was going to be sort of a shootout," Haimson said. "They have a good offense, we have a good offense, so that’s what it came down to: who could put the ball in the net more."
Montville had created several more scoring opportunities than Caldwell (26 to 21 in shots), but did not find any sort of rhythm against the Chiefs' zone until the second half. The Mustangs managed only nine shots in the first 24 minutes--five of which were stopped by Vogt--and found themselves trailing, 4-3.
"The key was moving the ball all around the perimeter," Haimson said. " Penetrate the zone to get a guy sliding, and then move it and backside would be open for nice shot. That was the key toward the end.
"We're used to running a man offense," he said. "The zone was definitely different, a challenge at first, but we conquered it."
Haimson had a chance to be the definitive conqueror, but his low shot in the box was kicked away by Vogt. Moments later, Correa had the ball in his stick, he quickly secured an angle and delivered the game-winner. Jake Drexel sealed the deal for the Mustangs by winning the final faceoff.
"At that position, the defense had already slid to me," Haimson said of the decisive sequence. "I hit the goalie with my shot, but Raf came around big and shot it. Perfect move."
A perfect move in a game highlighted by a number of excellent performances, like the superb dodging and shooting of Pierce, the overall play of both goalies (Montville's Greg Tutone made nine saves), the faceoff work of Maddaloni and the gritty ground ball efforts of Correa and defenseman Austin Strickland of Montville and middie Ramzi Kurzum of Caldwell.
The potent offense that Montville displayed in its first two games (27 goals) was unable to unleash its fury against Caldwell's smart zone play in the first half. However, the Mustangs did show balance by getting single goals from Kevin Wolfson, McCormack and Haimson. O'Lear and Niko DelMoro both connected in the third quarter to open a 5-4 lead.
"I think anybody on our offensive side can score," Correa said. "We're not depending on any one player. "When we share the ball, we are playing to our abilities. When we all play to our abilities, I think we're capable of beating anyone."
The inability to win tight games like this was Montville's Achilles' heel last season. Haimson and his pals wanted to be sure that trend did not resurface here.
"We all came together at the end," he said. "The coach (Rick DeBonta) got us fired up, had us feeling confidence. We came up big with this win. It was huge for us."
Mike Kinney covers boys lacrosse for MSG Varsity. Follow him on Twitter: @MikeKinneyHS