By MICHAEL LETENDRE
BRISTOL – Off a tournament qualifying 11-4 victory over Wamogo on Saturday, May 10, the St. Paul lacrosse team once again challenged Holy Cross in a very competitive affair from Bristol on Monday, May 12.
Right off the bat, the showdown was an up-and-down affair.
After one period, the game was a 1-1 stalemate with the momentum switching back and forth between the teams.
Early in the second frame, the Crusaders took the lead, the Falcons tied it back up, and Holy Cross came back to take the advantage again.
St. Paul trailed 4-3 with 5:58 to play in the first half before the Falcons scored three times to end the stanza on top.
And the last goal before the half was definitely a big one.
With the game at 5-4 with just seconds left in the second period, the home squad nabbed the final edge in the contest with a surprise goal.
Nick Villani made his run at the Cross goal and at the last possible second, flipped the ball to an attacking Ben Stump, who jammed it in the goal as St. Paul led by a 6-4 push at the half.
It was a huge goal and certainly put the visitors on its collective heels at intermission.
Cross never tasted the lead in the game again.
It was a momentum changer, said St. Paul coach Paul Hyland. “Once we went up 6-4, I told the guys hang in. Let’s get a couple (goals) on them, this is our quarter and we did that.”
Stump led all players with six goals in the contest while adding an assist.
Villani, seemingly everywhere on the field, zipped up three goals and two first half assists.
“He’s one of the weapons,” said Hyland of Villani, “but we also have Ben Stump on attack, who’s another three-year veteran. We have Eric Passeck, who’s a freshman, and is a weapon. We have a lot of weapons on this team.”
Tyler Pelletier had the other goal for the Falcons over the first half of action.
St. Paul moved the ball around well to zip up those half dozen goals to gain the advantage in the contest.
“Today, those weapons complemented one another,” said Hyland. “Nicky looks and dumps, boom, Ben gets a goal. Or Nicky cuts, Ben get him the ball, (and) there’s a goal. They’re looking, they’re really hustling and working hard for it.”
And in the St. Paul goal, Zac Stefanski had another standout performance.
Stefanski ended the fray with 16 saves – making eight in each half – and tallied big stops down the stretch when the Crusaders closed the gap early in the fourth period.
Defensively, the Falcons had standout performances from Colin McGowen, Marcello Sabino, Joe Strid and also received help from Brian Rackliffe and Villani.
“Colin McGowen and Marcello Sabino are weapons, defensively,” said Hyland. “Colin will take the (opponent’s) number one guy and shut him down. Marcello takes the number two guy. Joe Strid is not a slouch either and Zac Stefanski has done very well in the net as a first year goalie.”
And just over two minutes into the third frame, Villani chucked another shot in as the Falcons outscored the visitors 4-1 in the tilt as St. Paul rallied to a 10-5 lead.
“We were very patience offensively,” said Hyland. “I’m pleased. The boys have worked hard all year.”
But in a matter of 1:03 to open the fourth, Cross zipped in two goals and a once five-point cushion became a 10-7 game with St. Paul needing a point to stop the bleeding.
“We had a good third quarter when we got some goals,” said Hyland. “We got a nice lead in the third and in the fourth, I told (my players) Holy Cross is a good team, they’re going to make a run you which they did.”
“They got it to 10-7 but we came back.”
With 9:37 showing on the clock, Villani made another nifty sprint to the goal, fired it in, and just like that, the Falcons were once again riding high and leading 11-7.
“We got that fast break (going), got that goal…it was 11-7 and it was our game then,” said Hyland.
And then the dam broke on Holy Cross as after the Villani goal, Passeck assisted Stump on a score and with 3:23 remaining, one additional goal made it a 13-7 contest with the Crusaders unable to get any closer in the game.
By the time St. Paul scored again, the Falcons pulled out a big 14-7 win against a quality squad.
“It was a nice win,” said Hyland. “Now we’re at 8-4. We’re looking good. We’re just trying to keep getting wins so it makes us higher in the state rankings.”
Ben Pryor also played well for the Falcons and went it counted the most, St. Paul made all the big plays to seize the win.
“The boys held their composure,” said Hyland when Cross made its fourth period run. “That’s one thing about our team. We’ve been in some close games (and) we’re used to tough, close games. They don’t get frazzled in a game like that.”
ST. PAUL 14, HOLY CROSS 7
from St. Paul Catholic High School, Bristol
Holy Cross 1 3 1 2 – 7
St. Paul 1 5 4 4 – 14
Highlights: Ben Stump, 6 goals and 1 assist; Nick Villani; 3 goals; Zac Stefanski, 16 saves
Record: St. Paul 8-4