Thursday, April 27, 2017

Postgame Blog: Grafton Too Much for Up-and-coming Hopedale

By Joe Parello (@HerewegoJoe)

GRAFTON - Hopedale came into Thursday's clash with Mid-Mass. power Grafton undefeated, but the host Indians proved too much for the young program, running away with a 13-5 victory.

Led by four goals by junior Steve Rotatori, Grafton built an early 7-0 advantage, and never looked back. Grafton (9-2, 5-1 Mid-Mass.), was simply too much, controlling possession, and creating shots at will early on, whether it was through the pinpoint passing of guys like Anthony D'Angelo, or the dodging of players like Jimmy Donadio and Brendan Coates.

Basically, Grafton was playing loose and still riding high off of Tuesday's come-from-behind win over regional favorite St. John's.

"There's still a lot of hype because of the St. John's game," Donadio said. "We watched the film of the (St. John's) game yesterday, and it was a blast to watch, so I came out today pumped up."

Grafton in the Zone

Grafton pulled its starters for the fourth quarter, but the Indian starters were absolutely in the zone on both ends. Goalie Matt Nicalek allowed just two goals before leaving the game, the Indians went 13-6 at the face-off X, and Grafton's poles forced numerous turnovers and smoothly cleared the ball.

While Hopedale was actually the first place team coming into this game, the Indians clearly wanted to send a message that they were the team to beat in Mid-Mass.

"(The starters) wanted to stay in and score a little more, but coach put the backups in late to get some experience," senior middie Anthony D'Angelo said with a smile. "We were just running our normal offense, looking for the open pass or shots off a dodge."

Goals Still in Front of Hopedale

All that said, Hopedale is still miles ahead of schedule. For a program that has never made the tournament to already be at 6-1 and 3-1 in the league is very impressive. So, it will likely be easy for the Blue Raiders to shake this one off and re-focus.

"We have our goals for this season, and beating Grafton isn't one of them. That's somebody else's job," Hopedale coach Eric Moxim said with a chuckle. "Our goal is to have people look at the standings and say, 'what the heck is going on at Hopedale right now?'"

The coach would go on to say that making the program's first tournament appearance is a major goal for his group, and the Blue Raiders are well-positioned to make the postseason.

One concern will be an injury suffered by junior pole Isaac Moore, who left Grafton to have X-rays done on his arm.

"Isaac is a great player, and if he's out for an extended period of time, that could cause us some problems," Moxim admitted. "We've got good backups, but they're not Isaac, and we don't have the depth to absorb many losses right now… I said before the year that we could be great and meet our goals, as long as we don't catch the flu."

Cerow, Wollensak and Hollis Stand Out in Defeat

While Hopedale might not have great depth at this point in its development as a program, the Blue Raiders do have a trio of juniors to build around. Middie Jake Wollensak registered a hat trick, while middie Brian Cerow scored two goals, and goalie Dan Hollis turned away an absurd 16 shots.

Cerow broke the ice for Hopedale in the second period, and his enthusiasm after the goal was infectious. Clearly, the Blue Raiders have their energy guy.

"He's like our Flavor Flav," Moxim said with a smile. "He never stops, and he's someone that everyone we play against hates, because he's just frustrating… It's crazy because he runs the whole game, and he's still our energy guy at the end."

Final Thoughts

Look, Grafton is really good. The Indians controlled possession, limited Hopedale's looks while the starting pole trio of Tom Nicalek, Danny Bartosiewicz and Jack Fontana were in, and scored pretty much at will early on. The attack trio of Rotatori, Coates and Tyler Hart are picking up right where last year's fantastic group left off, and Anthony D'Angelo has become a state-level play maker in the midfield. Add in Connor Driscoll's solid play at the X, and once again, you have a team capable of playing deep into the D3 tournament.

Hopedale, who had a few rain outs and a game against Sizer, a non-varsity team that was clearly out of its league, got shot back to reality against one of the best teams in the state. The Blue Raiders were playing with house money, but just couldn't get anything done. If Isaac Moore comes back within a few days, this team is well ahead of schedule to make the tournament, but so much of what Hopedale does defensively starts with him, and losing him for more than a week or two could be trouble.

Both teams showed where they were today, and each has the potential to get much, much better. Mid-Mass. should get very interesting over the next few weeks.

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