SUDBURY, Mass. -- It was a flurry at the beginning and a breathless save at the end that delivered a riveting 12-11 victory for 20th-ranked Andover over No. 15 Lincoln-Sudbury in the first game of the first day of the Coaches Challenge Cup on Monday.
The Golden Warriors defeated the host Warriors by running out to a blazing start. However, L-S didn’t go quietly and kept spectators in suspense right up till the final horn.
After cashing in on their first four shot opportunities of the game, Andover (6-0) threatened to rout the Warriors. But L-S recovered to draw within a goal, 8-7, at halftime.
There were four lead changes in the second half, but the Golden Warriors stayed ahead for good on David Belluche’s goal with 6:12 to play, thanks to the defensive effort led by senior goalkeeper Crosby Nicholson and senior long-stick Ben Cook.
“That’s Crosby Nicholson,” Andover head coach Wayne Puglisi said. “He makes those types of saves. I don’t know how many one-on-one chances there were today.”
Nicholson saved the game from heading into overtime by stoning L-S midfielder Reed Spencer at point-blank range with 15 seconds to play.
“Lincoln-Sudbury made us play smarter and stronger today,” Puglisi said. “They’re a team that did things that we hadn’t seen all year long.”
Meanwhile, for L-S, which fell to 3-3 on the heels of a three-game losing streak, it’s all about getting a young group of players on the same page in light of some notable absences on the field. Top attack Marc Pace is out for the season with an Achilles injury and top D-man Paul Tocci has also been on the shelf, not to mention a freak accident to midfielder Dan Delaney that occurred last week.
“We’re young, but we’ve just got to get it done,” L-S head coach Brian Vona said. “That’s our issue, we don’t understand how to compete at a high level yet.”
C-C’s on a roll
The thumping sixth-ranked Hingham administered on Concord-Carlisle during last year’s Coaches Cup was not lost on the Patriots. And they used that unpleasant memory as cause to start this year’s first-round matchup with the Harbormen.
“We were pretty ready to play today,” Patriots senior attack Seth Bird said. “Hingham crushed us in the second round of the Coaches Cup last year in the second round, so we were pretty ready to go.”
Bird and his teammates took flight in the second quarter when they scored five goals to run out to a 7-1 halftime lead. Despite a second-half run from the Harbormen, No. 2 C-C held on to return the favor, beating Hingham 11-6.
“I think Seth Bird just really had a good game,” C-C head coach Tom Dalicandro said. “He was able to get by his man and I think they’re a little young on defense, so that allowed us to get some opportunities and Ben Lesser was able to cash in.”
Bird tallied a four-point game while notching a hat trick for the Patriots (6-0) while Lesser chipped in a three-point game (2G, 1A). Chris Walker-Jacks also added a goal and an assist.
Reed McLeod and David Freitas tallied two goals each in the second half to lead the comeback attempt for Hingham (5-1)
“We’ve got a lot of chemistry going this year,” Bird said of C-C’s offense. “We’ve got an attitude that this is our last chance this year to make a real run in the tournament.”
Wellesley doubles up Winchester
No. 3 Wellesley (5-0) remained undefeated on the early season as they defeated Winchester 8-4 in their first game of the 2011 Coaches Challenge Cup.
Wellesley led 2-1 after the first quarter but extended the lead to 6-2 at the half behind three goals from senior midfielder Sam Lawrence.
“Sam is always one of the best athletes on the field and when he gets in the open field he can really do some nice things,” said Wellesley head coach Rocky Batty. “The last five minutes of the second quarter we really pushed transition like we like to as a team.”
Winchester junior goalie Alex Sharp was exceptional in net all day for the Sachems, turning away 18 shots and making countless highlight film saves, to keep Winchester in the game.
“Winchester really played well,” said Batty. “A good goalie makes those saves and I think he (Sharp) was the player of the game out there today.”
Wellesley junior attack Peter Crane (3 goals, assist) scored the lone goal in the third quarter on a dish from junior midfielder Paul Vasko (1G, 1A) eight minutes in to the second half.
Winchester (2-3) kept fighting the entire way as junior midfielder Brendan Kelley and junior attack Jesse Samek (2G) would score the first two goals in the fourth to cut the lead to 7-4 midway through the final quarter.
Crane would put the game away in the final minutes for Wellesley as he scored his third goal on a pass from senior midfielder Charlie Jennings (2A).
Junior midfielder Oliver Saffrey (1G, 2A) and junior goalie Connor Darcey (10 saves) also played well for Wellesley in the win.
No. 11 Dover-Sherborn (6-0) got out to a 3-1 lead after the first quarter and never looked back as they controlled North Andover (3-2) to win the final game on the opening day of the 2011 Coaches Challenge Cup, 11-2.
After a slow start by both teams D-S really turned it on and were sparked by the electric play of junior midfielder Billy Polk (3 goals, assist) and senior attack P.J. Copponi (3 goals).
“I thought we played well after we started being patient against their zone,” D-S head coach Brian McLaughlin said.
The third quarter proved to be the deciding quarter for D-S as they outscored North Andover 4-1 to extend the lead to 8-2 at the end of the third.
“We moved the ball well and got a couple goals in transition that proved to be the difference in the third.” said McLaughlin.
D-S also received strong performances from senior goalie Jeff Williams, who did a great job clearing the ball all day, and senior midfielder Robbie Simms (1G, 2A). D-S will now play Wellesley on Thursday at 4 p.m. at Hingham in the next round of the Coaches Challenge Cup.
“We know each other well,” said McLaughlin. “We played here last year (Wellesley won 6-5). Coach and I are good friends and the kids know each other from playing summer ball. It will be a match-up of the Raiders, red versus blue.”