Sunday, April 27, 2014

Post Game Blog: St. John's Too Much for Shrewsbury

Shrewsbury defenseman Griffin Couture (white) and St. John's attackman Drew Smiley (red) fought a physical battle all game.
By Joe Parello (@HerewegoJoe)

If there were any doubts about who the top lacrosse team in Central Mass was, defending district champion St. John's dismissed them emphatically with a 9-0 win over cross-town rival Shrewsbury.

Here is your weekly reminder that this is only a blog of my wandering thoughts, not a complete recap of the game. If you would like a full recap, head on over to BostonLaxNet or ESPN Boston for complete stories.

This Game Could Have Been Close… No, Really

Look, I don't want to make excuses for Shrewsbury, but they weren't as bad as the final score indicated. Through the first quarter, St. John's only won the shot battle 7-6, but still held a 3-0 lead.

The difference in the game was St. John's goalie Steve Kerr, who made six saves, three of them he had no business making, and the fact that the Pioneers got a few fortuitous bounces.

The first goal of the day, scored by junior attackman Jared Ward, came when he managed to scoop up a ground ball in a sea of sticks and quickly throw it in. It was one of those "where the heck is the ball" kind of plays. Then, early in the second period, Shrewsbury played good enough defense to get a stick on a Pioneer crossing pass, but the deflection happened to land right on the stick of Andrew Cox, who threw it home.

If one or both of those things don't bounce St. John's way, and one shot finds its way past Kerr, it's a totally different game at 2-1 or 3-1, rather than 4-0.

That being said, Kerr stood on his head while the Pioneers got into rhythm, and St. John's got more breaks around the net simply because they possessed the ball a ton more. Senior Connor Maloney owned the face-off X for St. John's.

Shrewsbury goalie Chris Gorman and defenseman Griffin Couture did what they could, but the lack of offense and an inability to gain possession for Shrewsbury ultimately doomed the Colonials.

Smiley vs Couture

Speaking of Couture, the big, physical pole proved more than up for the challenge of spotting St. John's All American Drew Smiley. The star attackmen was held to just an assist with no goals, though that was partly because he was deferring to suddenly hot midfielders like Cox and senior Pat Ryan.

The other contributing factor was Couture, an offensive lineman on Shrewsbury's football team that proved very difficult to get around.

"He's a lot different from the other poles around here," Smiley said of Couture. He's a really strong kid, and I kind of had to use my speed instead of my size… He was able to keep me out of the inside, because I was trying to back him down and I wasn't really moving him too much."

With the way Smiley let the game come to him and didn't force things, you have to give him the upper hand. You know, since St. John's won and all, but the potent Pioneer midfield made the winner of this anticipated showdown a moot point.

Who's the Best Goalie in Central Mass?

As I said earlier, Chris Gorman did everything he could to keep Shrewsbury in this game, making several awe inspiring saves, but the onslaught was just too much. I've seen Gorman play before, and I can tell you he's the real deal. He makes stops that just shouldn't be made, and he's easily one of the top goalies in the state.

On the other hand, I couldn't help but be impressed with the play of Kerr, whom I had never watched before. The senior has waited his turn to start, backing up A.J. Arnold on last year's CMass Championship team, and I can now see why coach Terry Leary wasn't at all worried about his team between the pipes before the season started.

Kerr now leads CMass in goals against at 2.56, while Gorman sits at a very respectable 5.7. I would love to see these two teams play again, and it would be interesting to see how things develop if St. John's doesn't score a couple quick ones like they did Sunday.

Shrewsbury seemed to force things once they went down 3-0, and a ton of unforced errors and turnovers left Gorman and the defense exposed. Against the talent St. John's has, you simply can't do that.

Oh, and as for who's better; I don't know yet. Kerr was fantastic today, but he's got some big tests coming up. If he puts together great games against St. John's Prep and Xaverian this week, we could be talking an All American bid.


Anonymous said...

If you consider strength of schedule at this point for Shewsbury and SJ - who is the batter goalie at this point of the season. Data and Strength of schedule would likely point to Kerr.

Anonymous said...

50/50 ball domination and SJS defense keeping pressure on to keep shots on goal at a respectable 15 plus yards made for a easier day at the office for Kerr. Wet field conditions (mud) kept it closer than it could have been really. Shrewsbury offense could not get off a quality shot while SJS could move the rock and get quality shots just about everytime. Not sure your comment that if those two fortuitous bounces and goals had not happened might have been a different game. Not the game we all saw...

Joe Parello said...

I agree with you for the most part. Just pointing out that 2 of SJS' first four goals came off a scrum in front of the net where nobody seemed to know where the ball was and off a pass deflected by a Shrewsbury pole. But your point is dead on: St. John's owned the ground balls and the defense put the clamps down after the first quarter. My point maybe should have been that Shrewsbury missed some opportunities in the first and St. John's didn't. After that, yeah, it was domination.