WINDHAM—Tommy Lekousi led the Eagles in outpacing the visiting Scots on Thursday night, May 30: Lekousi hashed five goals en route to the 16-8 result, though he got plenty of help from a battery of teammates, including Ty Woolston with four, Matty Babb with three and Liam McCusker and Travis Brown with two apiece.
“Bonny Eagle, especially the last three or four years – historically, these games have always been tight,” Windham head coach Pete Small said. “Both teams bring their best when they come play. Last year, they played us tight both games; this year, one point in the third quarter, it was tied 7-7 in that first game, and we were fortunate to come out on top. So tonight we were expecting what we got, which was a tough game.”
“We knew they were going to be looking for revenge,” Woolston said, asked about Windham’s expectations for BE. “I think Coach said they tweeted out they were looking for – what’d they say? ‘Redemption.’ We lost to Portland and they beat Portland. So we knew it was going to be a tough game. But we grinded all week in practice and got after it.”
“Between the boxes, they won the battles tonight,” BE head coach Andrew Slefinger said. “That was a huge difference. Whether it just be ground balls, or their clearing game. They won the clearing game. Our ride wasn’t as strong as I wanted it to be – which eventually led to more possessions, and they capitalized on their possessions. They’re a quality team, there’s no doubt; they’re 11-1, and it shows based off tonight.”
Windham jumped out front early, Woolston scoring first at 10:43 and Lekousi following him up with a pair at 6:55 and 5:19. Bonny Eagler Tyler Williams finally put his boys on the board around 3:30, scoring from inside. Fellow Scot Dylan Cobbett nearly scored again for the team two minutes later, hurling a sidearm shot through traffic, but Eagles keeper Ben Elliot turned the save.
The Eagles looked to be doing most everything right in the game. “I think they were,” Small said. “One of the things we’ve tracked over time is our unforced errors. And we’ve got to make sure we win the ground-ball battle. It’s the dirty work. Goals are the things people look at, but it’s winning the faceoffs, it’s winning the midfield play, it’s winning the ground balls that are going to set that up.”
“I think fundamentally we’re strong, we just have to worry about unforced errors and getting in our own heads,” McCusker said. “Taking our time and really moving the ball around.”
“They came out on our hands – we had to pop out to get passes,” Lekousi said, asked what sort of tough looks the Scots gave the Eagles. “And their faceoff guy is really strong. Like last time, there was a stretch where they were winning every faceoff and they were able to score and get back even with us. But this game, we were able to hold it down the wings, so even if their faceoff guy won the clamp we were able to get the ball.” Wyatt Blanchette takes the majority of faceoffs for BE.
With 38 seconds to go in the first, Lekousi completed his hat trick, picking up a ground ball near midfield, curling up the left side and shooting across to the right BE post. Then, in the very final second – just as the buzzer tolled – Scot John Merrill grabbed a feed from behind the Windham net and redirected past Elliot for 4-2.
Woolston and Babb opened the second with strikes for the Eagles, pushing them to 6-2; midway through the stretch, Alex Dyer got one back for BE, cutting from the top of the Windham zone and firing low. Those three goals were the only three of the quarter, however, and halftime dawned on a 6-3 tally.
“Three’s not much,” Small said of his boys’ lead at the break. “In our first matchup this year, it was 6-2 at halftime, and they tied it up 7-7. So tonight we were up 6-3 at half, and we’re like, ‘Listen, we know what they can do when it’s 6-3.’ So we felt at halftime that third quarter was really important for us, because of the psychological impact it would have, knowing they came back last time. Our kids stepped up.”
Bonny Eagle, in fact, has posted multiple second-half comebacks this spring, including one against Windham themselves. The Scots lost that game, sure, but their efforts to claw upward from down 6-2 – they tied things at 7-7, at one point – remain impressive.
More recently, BE didn’t just tie things up with Marshwood after trailing substantially – they overtook the Hawks and ultimately defeated them. So the team is dangerous even when down.
Still, the Eagles are 11-1 and No. 1 in A North for a reason, and the third is when they really broke away from the Scots. Windham put up seven goals to BE’s three in the stretch, essentially securing the W.
“I was thinking about last game, when we played Gorham, and we were up by a lot, and they came back around the third quarter,” Lekousi said, asked what was going through his head at halftime. “I was like, ‘That can’t happen again.’ Everyone knew that was kind of a tendency of ours…to let teams come back a little. I knew that couldn’t happen. So we came out, got the ball, possessed it strong, and took the looks and we got it.”
BE actually struck first, showing off their mental fortitude and determination. Netminder Cole Sullivan, after grabbing a clutch save for the team, hurled a perfect, long clearing pass to Griffin Madore at midfield; Madore then jetted upfield to beat Elliot for 6-4.
That’s when the Eagles took over. McCusker logged the squad’s first and Lekousi their second, then Babb, McCusker again, Woolston, Lekousi, Babb. By the end of the quarter, Windham had grown their three-goal edge at the break into a massive, seven-goal gulf. Woolston added the first of the Eagles’ three in the waning 12 minutes, and Travis Brown kicked in two more.
“Something we’ve been working on – we’re pretty good at coming out strong, but sometimes we take our foot off the gas,” Woolston said. “So we’ve been working on just getting after the whole game. No third quarter-dips or any of that. Pedal to the metal, the whole game.”
Cobbett and Madore contributed goals as BE tried their damnedest to kick up a miracle, but in the end the night belonged to Windham. 16-8 the final.
“Their transition game is very solid, and when good teams are good in transition,” Slefinger said of the Eagles. “They’re able to spin the ball quickly and get it right on the cage. With Babbs and Tyler back here and Brown, it’s tough to play d and make sure that quick rotation comes through in our slides. We just weren’t able to get there quick enough.”
The contest concluded both teams’ regular seasons. Bonny Eagle, at 10-2, entered the A South tournament ranked third. The squad vied with No. 6 Kennebunk (6-6) in the first round of the playoffs on Tuesday night, June 4, shockingly losing 9-2. They thus retire till next year at 10-3.
Windham earns a bye through the quarters; they’ll meet the winner of Bangor/Hampden vs. Falmouth in the semis on Saturday, June 8.
“Obviously we’re psyched,” McCusker said. “It’s awesome; the first time the school’s ever been the No. 1 seed in our division, but we know we’ve got a tough couple games coming, three more games. We’ve got a week off, we really gotta grind in and work on our errors.”
Adam Birt can be reached at [email protected] Follow him on Twitter: @CurrentSportsME.
The ball pops off Scot Tyler Williams’s stick as he circles around the net under heavy pressure.
John Merrill pressures an attacking Eagles opponent.
BE netminder Cole Sullivan tracks the action as it encroaches on his space.
Liam McCusker carries for the Eagles in their big win over BE. In addition to a pair of goals, the Windhamite racked up a trio of assists.
Ty Woolston put up four goals (and three assists!) for Windham in the victory.
Braxton Cassidy defends for the Eagles.