FCIAC Boys Soccer Quarterfinals: Norwalk advances to semis on PKs
By STEVE GEOGHEGAN
Hour Staff Writer
NORWALK — Tyler Dalton has had many memorable saves as a goalkeeper but this one ranks among the tops.
The senior goalie and captain for the Norwalk High boys soccer team made a diving stop off a shot by Darien’s Henrik Stockinger in the penalty kick shootout to help lift the Bears to a 5-3 victory on PKs against the Blue Wave in the FCIAC quarterfinals following a hard-fought and physical 2-2 draw at the end of regulation and overtime on Friday night at Testa Field.
Dalton provided several top-notch saves on the night yet in the pressure cooker of PKs, he stepped up.
“It pretty high up there to say the least,” said Dalton, who was credited with 10 saves on the night.
As for his success on the night, he said, “It’s all about keeping your head in the game and blocking out all the other outside effects.”
With the win, fourth-seeded Norwalk (11-1-5) advances to the FCIAC semifinals where the Bears will play at top-seeded Fairfield Ludlowe on Monday at 7 p.m.
“It’s a great victory,” NHS head coach Chris Laughton said. “Darien is a really good team and they are a tough team to match-up physically because they’re so big but I love this group. From Day 1 these guys have found ways to win game and this was another example of that.”
Things didn’t look too good for the Bears when Kai Bjornstad put fifth-seeded Darien (11-4-2) ahead 2-1 off a rebound on a shot by Andrew Matthew with 5:03 remaining in the first overtime. It was Bjornstad’s second goal of the game and he helped to force the overtime on a header following a corner kick to tie the score, 1-1, with 14:29 on the clock in the second half.
The Bears answered after Darien went ahead, however, when senior defender and captain Jose Canahui’s free kick from 23 yards out deflected off the wall and found its way into the back of the net to forge a 2-2 tie with 1:35 left in the first overtime.
“I didn’t even look at the goal to be honest,” Canahui said. “I put the ball down and I just shot it. It was a great moment.”
Neither team could generate much in the second overtime to force a penalty kick shootout.
Canahui put the Bears up 1-0 with a goal past netminder Liam Rischmann (eight total saves) but Bjornstad answered. George Kutrubis buried his PK for Norwalk with Matthew matching to tie the score, 2-2.
Patrick Barrantes gave the Bears the lead for good to set the stage for Dalton’s heroics. He made a diving save on Stockinger shot at the bottom left corner and bounced back up while showing no emotion.
“Tyler has proven he can save PKs,” Laughton said. “That was a phenomenal save. Tyler gets up for big games and it shows.”
Alex Escalante found the back of the net on his PK and senior captain Rene Jimenez capped the scoring with a goal into the top right corner to send the Norwalk faithful into a frenzy.
Santi Mesa gave Norwalk a 1-0 lead off an assist from Anthony Hernandez with 17:16 on the clock in the second half.
The Bears tied the Falcons 1-1 during the regular season and they are hoping to carry over the momentum from Friday into Monday.
“We’re really excited,” Laughton said. “We had a solid game against them during the season. It’s two very good teams playing so it should be a great game.”