LEXINGTON, Mass. -- Russell Bollag-Miller is one of those players that, if you lose sight of him for a second, he’ll rear up and bite you when you’re least expecting it.
That was the case on what felt like a rare gorgeous Saturday afternoon at Lincoln Field as Miller took full advantage of the extra attention being shown to high scoring teammate Conor Henrie and popped in four goals to lead the 15th-ranked Minutemen to a 7-3 victory over No. 25 Reading.
“Russell does that. I think this is his third or fourth hat trick this season,” said Lexington head coach Dave Walsh. “He slips by guys. I don’t think people realize he’s that fast and can get by guys. Plus he can shoot pretty well. He finds his spots and he puts them away.”
Miller put them away when the Minutemen (13-4) needed it most. He scored three times in the first half as both teams waged a defensive battle that threatened to leave the only curved number on the scoreboard a zero. His first was after a slip-dodge to get loose for a 15-yard laser, and the next two started from behind the net and ended with Miller blazing through the middle for open shots.
Reading also managed a pair in the second quarter with Matt Dente and Nick Guenard breaking through, and Lexington held a 3-2 lead at the break. Miller opened the second half with another deep shot, sparking a 4-0 spurt that allowed his team to gradually pull away.
“We had a lot of motivation to really step up our offense. Our last game (a 4-3 win over WInchester), we really lacked a lot in our confidence so we came in to this one with a different mindset,” Miller said. “We had more confidence in our dodges and getting to the cage and they really weren’t sliding early so when we beat that first guy, there were a lot of open shots.”
Connor Zarin, Geoff Genova and Ben Silberman had Lexington’s other three tallies. Despite being bottled up by Reading’s UMass-bound LSM Larry Gilligan, Henrie focused on playing strong short-stick defense, and along with Genova and the long pole corps led by Arga Yumus and Eric Marcentonio, the Minutemen were able to keep the shooting lanes clear for goalie Shane Taylor, who made 12 stops.
While this wasn’t an official Middlesex League game, the two rivals kept a second date on the schedule to provide the kind of tournament atmosphere both will be entering when the postseason brackets are released next Friday. From the viewpoint of Rockets coach Charlie Hardy, Saturday was a valuable learning experience he hopes his youthful charges will learn from as the season rolls into June.
“This was a good learning experience,” he said. “We have two games left then the tournament. I’m not discouraged. We’re going to be okay. I’m looking at the big picture here and I don’t mind this. I want good games. We didn’t have to play them a second time but I want games like this. They were just the better team today.”
Walsh felt the same way.
"Thats what we talked about. It was about getting a win against a team which has qualified for the tournament which is one of the ways in which we seed the tournament. Getting a win against a team that knows how to win and has won in the tournament in recent years. Its a confidence builder. We have two more games against really tough teams and we have to get wins there so we hope to keep building upon that."