Saturday, April 16, 2016

Postgame Blog: St. Bernard's Wins a Thriller at Nashoba

St. Bernard's attackman Curtiss Vachonn (13) scored two goals and dished out an assist, but Nashoba goalie Robby Atwood (24) didn't make things easy, turning away 19 shots.
By Joe Parello (@HerewegoJoe)

It was a game of inches Saturday in Bolton, as visiting St. Bernard's edged Nashoba 7-6 when a last-second shot by Chieftain attackman Tim Leach flew just wide right.

Before that final shot, those in attendance were treated to a back-and-forth affair between two teams hungry for a win. The Bernardians (4-1) were coming off a surprising loss to Bromfield, while Nashoba (0-4, 0-2 Mid-Wach A) was just hoping to pick up its first win of the young season.

Early on, it looked like the Chieftains would. Led by a pair of assists from Rory Boots, Nashoba jumped out to a 3-0 lead, and looked to take that lead into the second quarter. Those plans proved premature, however, as Pat Vachon finished a pass from Nick Bagley for a goal with 55 seconds left in the first quarter. Seconds later, Curtiss Vachon dodged in and scored another for St. B's, who carried momentum into the second.

Evan Benham kept the Bernardian run going in the second, followed by a goal from Zack Bingham. With less than two minutes to play in the half, Curtiss Vachon powered his way through a double-team and threw home a goal to give St. Bernard's a 5-3 lead at intermission.

Pat Vachon opened up scoring in the second half, before Leach ended the St. B's run and a 22-minute Chieftain scoring drought. Boots followed suit three minutes later to make it 6-5, setting up some fourth quarter drama.

Zach Zarrella stretched the St. B's lead to two midway through the fourth, but Jack Quinn made it a one-goal game again with less than five minutes to play.

Then it would come down to the two goalies. First, Robby Atwood made four more of his 19 saves (more on him a little later), but then Sean Kelley made a huge save in the final minute for the Bernardians.

After a push was called on St. Bernard's in their own offensive zone, Nashoba got the ball back with 16 seconds to play. Boots juked one defender and pushed the ball upfield to Leach on the left side. The attackman created some space for himself and fired a shot as the horn sounded, but the ball flew right of the net, sealing victory for the visitors.

Back on Track

After a disappointing loss to Bromfield, St. Bernard's was looking to bounce back, and the Bernardians did it with suffocating defense. Kelley finished the day with 8 saves, and the defense played strong, led by pole Joe Lelli.

"We changed our zone to a different version of the zone," St. Bernard's senior Ethan Abitz said. "And then we got a couple quick goals, and that kind of kick started the whole team.

With big games against Leominster and suddenly scrappy Hopedale on tap for next week, St. Bernard's will need to keep up its defensive intensity.

"Goaltending and defense were outstanding today," St. Bernard's coach Mike Kelley said. "The offense did what it needed to do against a great goalie."

Atwood Brilliant in Defeat

Nashoba senior goalie Robby Atwood had himself a day. He stopped the first five St. B's shots he faced, and turned away three different one-on-ones, including a breakaway from Curtiss Vachon.

Any time you make 19 saves, it's something special, but Nashoba coach Kevin McNamara has come to expect these kinds of games from his goalie.

"He's good for that every game, he really is," McNamara said. "He's as good as it gets. There are some good goalies around, but I wouldn't take anybody else."

"Robby and I go back to freshman year when we first met," Curtiss Vachon said. "We've done a few camps together, and he's one of my best friends. He knows how I play, he knows where I finish, and I know how good he is. We obviously game planned around him in practice, and we managed to sneak seven by him, and that was good enough today."

While Atwood had a great day individually, the senior isn't satisfied. Nashoba has improved tremendously, and played well in stretches, but he still thinks the best is yet to come.

"We haven't reached our potential yet," Atwood said. "We'll have to get a few more games under our belt and see what that is."

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