Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Postgame Blog: Grafton Earns First Ever State Finals Appearance

Grafton celebrates after defeating Ipswich in Double OT of a Division 3 state semifinal.
By Joe Parello (@HerewegoJoe)

Nothing has come easy for Grafton this year, but a double-overtime goal by Josh Birdsall against Ipswich Monday sent the program to its first ever state championship game.

Here is your reminder that this blog is just my wandering thoughts on the game. If you'd like a full recap, along with highlights (trust me, you wanna see these highlights), head over to BostonLax.

Now, onto the blog.

Getting Defensive

Earlier in the year I said that Grafton might just have the best defense in Central Mass, a big statement given the talent at places like Algonquin and Shrewsbury. Injuries hampered the unit for most of the year after a great start, but this group of poles and goalie Cardin Msumba have shown just how good they can be when (relatively) healthy.

Senior pole Connor Evans is finally back, and he made several clutch plays down the stretch against Ipswich, including grabbing a key ground ball in the second overtime period. The regular mainstays on defense, Danny Bartosiewicz, Youki Azuma and Tom Nicalek, all played another exceptional game, holding an explosive Tiger attack in the single digits for just the fifth time all season.

This is, of course, nothing new for Grafton this postseason, as the Indians are coming off an effort where they held Mt. Greylock, a team that regularly scores in the 20s, to just eight goals. In all, Grafton has surrendered just 21 goals during the tournament, good for 5.25 goals per game against four offenses that have averaged a combined 12.8 goals per game this season.

Yeah, that's pretty darn good.

Fighting Through Injuries

Grafton has dealt with as many injuries as anybody this season, but the Indians are as healthy as they're going to be heading into Friday's state championship game.

Make no mistake about it, though, Grafton is still a group of walking wounded, most notably with junior star attackman Chase Kapuscienski battling a broken foot. And guess what? He's been dealing with that injury since the second game of the year against Algonquin.

All he's done with a broken foot is lead the team with 75 points (44G, 31A), good for second in Mid-Mass. What's more, Kapuscienski is in line for some serious off-season foot surgery once the Indians are finally done this year, and it could cause him to miss the first week or two of next season, according to coach Alan Rotatori.

Like the rest of his team, Kapuscienski is tough as nails.

This Team is Legit

For all the hate out there, Grafton continues to prove it is legitimately one of the best teams in Division 3 (duh), and Central Mass as a whole. If you haven't figured that out, you haven't been watching the past seven years as coach Alan Rotatori has taken this small school program and turned it into one of the state's most consistent winners.

The Indians nearly won the Central Mass tournament (where every CMass team, regardless of school size, was classified as Division 2) several times before realignment, but heart-breaking defeats at the hands of much larger schools like Algonquin and power houses like St. John's always kept the Indians one win away from a district crown.

Now, in just their second year as a D3 program, the Indians are still playing a largely D2 schedule, and acquitting themselves very well. Grafton defeated Mid-Wach A champion Algonquin 7-6 before the Indians were hit with a rash of injuries, but still fought through adversity to capture another Mid-Mass. title (shared with up-and-coming Tantasqua, a D2 tournament team). Even while wounded, the Indians battled Mid-Wach A powers Shrewsbury and Westboro to the end, and knocked off Wachusett.

Their only poor showing came in the rain at St. John's, but no way do I believe this team is 10 goals worse than the Pioneers, or anybody else in the region, especially now.

People can rag on the fact that they play in Division 3, but the Indians have gone toe-to-toe with everybody over the years, and now they're showing they're one of the best small-school/town programs in the state.


Anonymous said...

Thank you for all your work joe. Appreciate it

Anonymous said...

Great team with a lot of heart!

Aleke Msumba said...

And then there was won!