STANDISH—John Merrill’s last-minute goal vs. visiting Marshwood on Wednesday, May 22 – man, did he fight for that.
Up the middle, through a crush of bodies, off balance and headed for the turf: Merrill fired with all the determination in the world, no doubt. No doubt. But he couldn’t have had more than an ounce of hope.
Merrill’s game-winner – 11-10 the final – capped a tumultuous afternoon for the Scots: The team fell frustratingly far behind in the early going. “That game could’ve gone way south at halftime,” BE head coach Andrew Slefinger said. “We could’ve packed it in, let them get a couple more. You get a seven-, eight-, nine-goal differential, and it’s like, ‘Oh, boy, here we go.’”
The Hawks hopped on top 1-0 to begin the day, and inched further out front, 2-0, with about four minutes to play in the first. Cooper Ross did the latter honors; Ross proved a formidable force as the game unfolded.
“I expected they were going to be good,” Merrill said of Marshwood. “I didn’t want to underestimate them, and I feel like we came out slow in the first half.”
Scot Max Zygadlo halved Marshwood’s lead with 55 seconds remaining in the opening quarter, notching on Hawks’ keeper Connor Hohn with a low shot from off the left post. Merrill then evened things up for the home team early in the second, driving in from the left to beat Hohn across to the far side. 2-2.
Marshwood seized the momentum after that, however. Hohn deserves much of the credit because the Scots did land solid shots on him – Dylan Cobbett at 8:15 and Zygadlo at 7:20, e.g. – but one-by-one he turned them all away. Meanwhile, Hohn’s middies and attackers went to work pushing the Hawks to a comfortable lead – really, a lead that looked insurmountable.
Through the last six or so minutes of the second, Marshwood controlled the action quite effectively, heaping on offensive pressure and stuffing most of Bonny Eagle’s attempts to clear the ball.
Henry Honkonen made it 3-2 for the Hawks: Andrew Goodwin intercepted a BE clearing attempt at the top of the Scots’ box, then dished leftward to Honkonen, who juked in and bested netminder Cole Sullivan. Ross then made it 4-2, Sean Maguire 5-2 and Matt Zinck 6-2.
“I think we came in a little too cocky,” Cobbett said when asked what allowed Marshwood to manhandle the Scots for as long as they did. “And, our coach always tells us, we need to possess the ball, spin it. But the goals come later. Just spin the ball, everyone gets a touch. And I think we were trying to go too early. We were getting ahead of ourselves.”
“We weren’t making the passes and completing the passes we wanted to,” Scots junior middie Alex Dyer said of his guys’ ineffective start. “Couldn’t get the ground ball wins; they were winning a lot more ground balls and faceoffs. We were tired, just slow.” Dyer is a captain, along with Merrill and Anthony Breton.
“I felt frustrated when we started taking the outside shots,” Merrill said, “the shots that are low-percentage and we know we can’t make.”
“We were just playing out of our element,” Slefinger said. “Marshwood was a very fast-transition-pace team. They’ve got a couple of guys on attack that can really move the ball and rip the ball …We got flustered a little bit. Getting down in a hole, it’s always tough.”
6-2 at the break. Now, a four-goal deficit isn’t much in lacrosse; a hot squad can put up four goals in, say, a minute. But Bonny Eagle was hardly on fire. Despite the sides entering the contest with equivalent records – both were 7-1 – Marshwood appeared to be far and away the more determined lineup.
The Hawks continued to exude that impression – and the Scots continued to let them – through the first half of the third. Sure, Cobbett scored the initial goal in the stretch, just about three minutes in, but a minute and a half later, Carsen Goodwin snuck past BE defender Zack Ross and beat Sullivan for 7-3. Shortly after that, Marshwood pried their advantage open still further, hitting 8-3.
Still, BE refused to give up.
“We weren’t trying to get four,” Cobbett said of his boys’ persistence. “We were trying to get one at a time. After one, there’s another and another. The goals would come, as long as we played our offense and our game.”
Midway through the third something clicked for the Scots. The team managed to snap the Hawks’ attacking perimeter and push the action back into midfield – and then into Marshwood’s zone. Once there, BE needed a couple minutes to find the back of the net. When they did, though, they did so in style: Tyler Williams shoveled inwards from the left side to Zygadlo at the post, and Zygadlo fired over Hohn, and to the opposite side. 8-4.
“At halftime,” Cobbett said, “we came together. We assessed what we needed to do, that we needed to play our game, not their game. Slef’s always told us, games like this are ours to lose, not theirs to win. So we kept that mentality.”
“Once the second half hit,” Dyer said, “we realized we had to step it up, or we were going to lose … Everyone knew where we were at. There wasn’t much really said; it was just, ‘We’ve got to get the fundamentals down, and we’ll have the game.’”
Then, with 2:02 to play in the third, Marshwood’s Casey Cullen pulled a critical penalty, a three-minute locked-in trip to the sideline for a cross-check to the head of a BE opponent. The Scots took full advantage of the misstep, Alex Dyer converting at 1:38 and Griffin Madore at 42.6 seconds for 8-6.
“The penalty, we know what to do,” Cobbett said. “We capitalize off their mistakes, and they made a mistake.”
“The momentum switched completely,” Dyer said of the Scots’ skillful play during the penalty. “Wyatt, our faceoff guy, he kept winning them, giving us a possession. All of our guys went from almost having our heads down to picking them back up.”
Bonny Eagle continued barreling forward to start the fourth. Madore scored and Cobbett scored, tying things up at 8-8 and igniting the Scots’ sideline (not to mention their fan contingent). The team pulled ahead at 8:35 when Dyer struck again, cutting left-to-right out front of Hohn. Still, Marshwood managed to balance the books once more just 29 seconds later, Ross tallying yet another goal for the Hawks.
A long Marshwood clearing pass at 5:35 landed on Maguire’s stick, and Maguire dashed forward to engage Sullivan one-on-one. He lost, however – a major save for Sullivan, especially now that the outcome balanced on a razor’s edge.
Cobbett from the top of the Marshwood zone grabbed another BE advantage, the 10-9 advantage, with 3:32 to go, but 82 seconds on, the Hawks clawed back for 10-10, thanks to Maguire.
Time ticked away; the last minute arrived and the bout appeared fated for OT. But appearances can be deceiving, and with 55 seconds left on the clock, Merrill assembled his game-winner. The initial shot, Hohn blocked; it deflected out, up the middle, where a melee quickly formed. Merrill powered through the storm of bodies to pick up the ball, but doing so cost him his footing and gravity took over. He got the shot off, though: The ball collided with the top of Hohn’s stick, but glanced over and billowed the net. Yep, he almost had the stop.
“The ball bounced off the goalie,” Merrill said. “It was on the ground and I knew I had to get it; I was right there. I saw one of their players come in; he tripped me up. I was still able to scoop the ball up, and I tried finishing. I was falling down, and I was praying it was going to go in. I saw the net shake in the background. I was like, ‘Yes, I did it.’”
“I call John the most consistent player on the field,” Slefinger said of Merrill. “He can play offense, he can play defense; he understands the game so well. His vision is incredible. That was him just, ‘I’m not losing this battle.’ That was all just individual effort on that one.”
11-10 the final. Third-ranked Bonny Eagle moved to 8-1 on the result, and Marshwood to 7-2 (in Class B). The Scots have since picked up another W, 18-2 over Lake Region. Their final two games are on the road at Massabesic (No. 8, at 2-7) on May 29, and on the road at Windham (No. 2 in A North, at 9-1) two days later.
Dyer, a captain, applauded a number of his teammates. “Griffin has stepped up a lot from last year,” he said of Madore. “Our defense has really stepped up as well. Cole made some nice saves. Everyone has stepped up, because we’ve had a lot of injuries.”
Adam Birt can be reached at [email protected] Follow him on Twitter: @CurrentSportsME.
Gibson Bradway attacks for Bonny Eagle.
Max Zygadlo curls behind the net.
Zack Ross drives forward on offense.
Griffin Madore clashes with a Hawks opponent.
Wyatt Blanchette looked solid, as usual, on the faceoffs for BE.
Nikolas Klein tracks the action.
Scot Dylan Cobbett scored on this shot.
Tyler Williams attacks for BE.
Bonny Eagler John Merrill scored the gamewinner inside the last minute.