Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Littleton Overcomes Slow Start to Shut Out Shepherd Hill

Littleton's offense took a while to get going, but freshman goalie Brandon Witherell and senior pole Kyle Magnuson kept the Tigers afloat all night.
By Joe Parello (@HerewegoJoe)

DUDLEY - After a scoreless first quarter, Littleton found its footing against upstart Shepherd Hill, shutting out the Rams 7-0 under the lights in Dudley.

"We were thinking that it would be nice to get some offensive possessions and some shots on net," Littleton coach Mike Blanchard said with a chuckle. "We weren't moving the ball well on offense in the beginning of the game. (Shepherd Hill) plays great defense, and you've got to pass the ball, and pass it a lot to make that defense move. We weren't doing that early."

During that first quarter, where Shepherd Hill (4-1, 2-1 Mid-Wach B) largely controlled possession, Littleton (2-1, 1-0 Mid-Wach B) was kept afloat by the stellar play of its defense, and solid work between the pipes by freshman goalie Brandon Witherell. Goalie was one of Littleton's few question marks, with last year's starter Erik Rauker missing his senior season due to injury. That said, the Tigers couldn't have asked for a much better start from Witherell, who held his own against Division 2 state power Concord-Carlisle in the season opener (13 saves), and registered his first career shutout, complete with 10 saves, on Wednesday night.

Littleton would finally find a bit of an offensive groove in the second quarter, as some nice passing from both Jared Collari and Anthony Rausa led to a pair of Danny Angel goals. The Tigers took that 2-0 lead into intermission, but quickly kept things going as Rausa opened the third with a score, followed by a wrap-around goal by Collari.

Danny Angel (4) celebrates one of his two first-half goals with teammate K.C. Romilly (14).
The fourth would open with another Collari goal, before returning All-American Griffin Shoemaker, now playing midfield after spending the majority of last season on attack, got on the board moments later. Collari then fired a laser pass from behind the cage to Will Scott for the game's final score.

"Brandon was playing amazing in net (early), so we were just feeding off him," Collari said. "We knew after fixing one thing on offense, and a few things on defense, that we would get a lot more shots off."

"It's so early in the season," Blanchard added. "The teams that are playing now are not the teams that are going to be playing a month from now. But it's good to match up and see where we are in terms of our development."

Joe's Takeaways

With the win, the Tigers take a big step toward repeating as Mid-Wach B champions. The league should be even more competitive this season, though, with a clearly improved Shepherd Hill, newly added Marlboro, and Tyngsboro always in the mix at the top.

Still, despite the lop-sided final score Wednesday, it was hard not to be impressed with the Rams. Shepherd Hill will find its offense as the year goes on. With guys like Tristan Pietz, Sean Tully and Anthony Detarando, the Rams have the firepower, but consistency and movement on that end will be key. While the offense struggled, Shepherd Hill played some great defense Wednesday night, totally shutting Littleton down for the first quarter, and making them work for everything until the dam broke a bit in the fourth.

At the end of the day, holding Littleton to 7 goals is nothing to sneeze at (the Tigers scored 8 against C-C), but the Rams will need to put together a complete game if they are to break through and beat a league title contender.

Littleton, meanwhile, once again looks like the real deal. I wondered about the Tigers' defense after pole Ben Church graduated and goalie Erik Rauker was lost for the season following shoulder surgery, but Littleton looks as stout as ever on that end. Moving Griffin Shoemaker to the midfield will allow him to impact both ends, and give Littleton a bit more flexibility. It also seems like Jared Collari has taken the next step in his game, and is prepared to spearhead the Tiger attack.

Jared Collari (1) after celebrating a goal with Griffin Shoemaker (3).
In a lot of ways, this is a new-look Tiger team, but the results should be the same: Wins, and a lot of them.

Both teams will now have a little time to lick their wounds and rest up. Next up for Littleton is a tricky trip to Shrewsbury next Tuesday, while Shepherd Hill will look to get back on track at St. Peter-Marian next Wednesday.

No comments :