Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Postgame Blog: Westboro Outlasts Wachusett

Westboro juniors Trevor McNamara (3) and Luke McGrath (6) powered the Rangers to a shootout win.
By Joe Parello (@HerewegoJoe)

Junior attackmen Luke McGrath had six goals, and classmate Trevor McNamara added five as Westboro won a home shootout against Mid-Wach A rival Wachusett Tuesday, 14-13.

The early goings of the day would belong to the Mountaineers, however, as Wachusett (3-1, 1-1 Mid-Wach A) got on the board first with goals from Griffin LaPosta and Dan Turgeon.
Westboro (2-1, 2-1 Mid-Wach A) answered with goals from McGrath and senior middie Charlie Katz, but Wachusett kept its offense going through the rest of the quarter, ending the first leading 5-3.

McNamara and Fritschy traded goals to start the third, but then the Rangers went on a 3-0 run, powered by the two junior attackmen, to take their first lead of the game 7-6. Westboro would head to intermission leading 8-7, and a back-and-forth affair would continue into the second half.

"I think what changed was just our guys relaxing," first-year Westboro coach Tim Montgomery said of his team finding its offensive rhythm. "Just catching and throwing, that was kind of a big thing for us on Saturday too. It's something we're going to continue to improve upon."

Blake Reeves quickly tied things up for the Mountaineers in the third, but McNamara answered less than a minute later for Westboro. That would be a theme in the second half.

Moments later, Fritschy drew Wachusett even, only to see McGrath give Westboro a 10-9 lead 40 seconds later. Toward the end of the third, senior Ranger goalie Jeff Bernard stood on his head for Westboro. The senior robbed a shot right in front of the crease, then turned away two other open shots to preserve an 11-10 Ranger lead heading into the fourth.

"The first quarter was pretty rough for me," Bernard said. "But I felt like, as the game went on, I re-gained my confidence. I was just trying to re-gain my composure."

Katz blasted his third goal top shelf, followed by McNamara's fifth goal to give Westboro a 13-10 lead midway through the fourth. It didn't seem to matter what Wachusett did, McNamara just kept getting free around the cage.

"It looked like they slid from the crease every time," McNamara said. "I just got by one guy, and I felt like I could take the double... I had some success shooting, and my teammates got me the ball. Can't say anything else other than I have to thank my teammates."

After Wachusett answered, McGrath scored his sixth to make it 14-11, but Wachusett wasn't done yet.

Fritschy scooped up a ground ball and scored to pull the Mountaineers within two, and 20 seconds later, Turgeon's third goal cut the Ranger lead to just one.

Unfortunately for Wachusett, the Mountaineers were called for a cross check, giving the ball to Westboro with 1:38 remaining. Working with an extra man, and a one-goal lead, the Rangers put the ball on the stick of McNamara. The speedy junior did the rest, running out 1:24 seconds of the clock before drawing a slash. Westboro ran out the game's final 14 seconds to capture their second league victory of the young season.

"Our biggest goal this season, and this sounds a little crazy, but it's just to have fun," Montgomery said. "The culture has been awesome with this team, we have an amazing senior class. So, every day, we're just sort of saying 'have fun, go out there and play an hour-and-a-half or two hours with your best friends.'"

Looking Ahead

This was definitely a "show me" game for both teams, and each performed well. You have to be impressed with both offenses, as Fritschy led the balanced Wachusett attack with five goals, while McNamara and McGrath dominated for Westboro.

Still, despite the fact that this thing turned into a shootout, I came away extremely impressed with Westboro goalie Jeff Bernard. When the Rangers needed a big stop, he made it. Near the end of the third quarter, he was the reason they held onto the lead, and he made Wachusett work for everything they got in the fourth. Westboro is still working out the kinks of its new man-to-man defense, but they've got an anchor between the pipes to help them through this period of transition.

As for Wachusett, I think the Mountaineers lived up to the hype I'd heard. They have plenty of guys that can hurt you, and they showed off some crisp passing, despite some early wet conditions. Much like Westboro, they'll need to get better defensively as the year goes on, but I don't see any reason why the Mountaineers won't be a factor in the Mid-Wach A race.

Next up for Wachusett is a Thursday home game against another league foe, Groton-Dunstable, followed by a major test at St. John's Saturday. Westboro, meanwhile, has another chance to make a splash in the league against perennial power Shrewsbury at home on Thursday.

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