BRISTOL – Saving its best for last, the Bristol Eastern boys lacrosse team finally earned its first victory of the season on Thursday, May 16 – holding off pesky Bristol Central by a 7-6 final from Alumni Field on the campus of Bristol Eastern.
The Lancers nabbed the lead midway through the first period and simply never gave it up, leading to a one-goal victory.
“That was the one the kids cared most about,” said Eastern coach Jessie Gumpert of the match against Central. “With the season that we had, we had a lot of downs and this was the place to have our ups. This was great.”
Eastern moved to 1-11 with one road match left while Central fell to 3-13 to end the year.
The defense was outstanding for Eastern as Noah Piazza and company shut down the Central offense.
And the Eastern offense got a big push from D’Andre Wiggins, Jeff Taillon, Riley McKenney, Nate Cobb, Nate Shorette, and Konrad Oleszyk.
Central’s defense, including Chris Sirois, Nathan Morton, and Somaneen Kheav played well in just giving up the seven goals while the offensive grit of Ian Staubley was on display all evening long.
Gabe Farr, Tom Kenney, Aydin Cross, Mason Coco, and Cole Sciascia all did something offensively for the Rams.
And Farr scored within one minute into the contest as the Rams drew first blood, 1-0.
Three minutes into the contest, Eastern’s starting goalie – senior Devin Levesque – made way for Sam Anderle and the usual man in net was under fire almost immediately.
It was still 1-0 halfway through the first quarter as the Lancers were starting to take more shots at the Central net.
Anderle did a nice job coming out of the net with just over five minutes in the frame, meeting offenders and stopping shots.
And Oleszyk got his team on the board with 4:27 to play in the first with a slick goal as the contest was knotted at 1-1.
The Lancers started to dominate offensively and Oleszyk was at it again – squaring off a shot right in front of the Central net for another goal – as Eastern led 2-1 with about three minutes to play in the first period.
And nearly at the first period buzzer, Wiggins scored from the right side, slipping the ball past Central’s Dillon Kelley in goal as the home team was leading 3-1 through one period of action.
Central kept the pressure up in the second frame as Staubley made a brilliant interception as the visitors were setting something up.
And Anderle made a big save two minutes in as the Lancers continued to lead by two.
Staubley missed a chance with 7:50 left in the half as things were getting a bit heated between the rivals.
And with 6:47 showing on the clock, Staubley flipped in a goal as the deficit was chopped to 3-2.
Then, it was Taillon’s turn to drop in a goal and with 5:17 left in the second, his tally made it 4-2 in the Lancers’ favor.
Eastern then sent the ball off a Central post and Andrew Spina’s shot was stopped by Kelley while a Staubley/Farr connection just missed on another scoring chance for the Rams.
And with 2:40 left in the second, Farr snuck in another goal as Central trailed 4-3 – keeping the battle a close one.
Taillon had a great set-up thirty seconds later and Oleszyk scored again – making it a 5-3 game at the two-minute mark of the second tilt.
Wiggins made a sweet defensive play late to keep a potential Central shot from going in and Farr was stopped at the buzzer as Eastern went into the half ahead by two, 5-3.
Central’s Ayden Cross took an early shot on the Eastern goal in the third period but to no avail while Anderle made a quick save – playing a smooth game in the net – to keep the Lancers’ two-goal push intact.
“Man, what a performance tonight,” said Gumpert of Anderle. “I couldn’t be prouder of him. I’d have to say of all the positions he’s played, and he’s played them all this season, this was by far his best performance of the entire season.”
Cross jammed another shot on goal but it went wide right and Anderle bopped out a Staubley attempt as the Lancers were rolling.
Staubley later made an intercept of a pass but Eastern’s defense got in the way once again with just over 6:00 to play in the third frame.
Anderle again made a stop on a Staubley attempt as Cross, being very aggressive, missed another shot on goal but kept on firing.
And the Rams’ Aidan Kowalczyk scored with 3:20 left in the third as Eastern’s cushion was trimmed to 5-4.
The play was starting to be dominated on Eastern’s side of the field as Farr just missed another attempt with 1:51 to go in the third period.
Anderle made another stop of a Cross shot and Central’s defense matched that effort as the Lancers did not score over third period play.
Shorette nearly set up Spina with a great look but the ball slipped away and at the end of three completed frames, the Lancers were clinging to a 5-4 lead.
There was plenty of action in front of the Eastern net to open the final quarter as the Rams were looking to tie things up.
But off a slick Oleszyk steal and goal with 10:42 left to play, the home squad was once again up by two, 6-4.
“We were much more aggressive on ground balls and that’s where a lot of those scoring opportunities really come,” said Gumpert.
The Rams did a nice job attacking with less than nine minutes remaining but there was that Eastern goalie again, making all the big stops and keeping the team on track.
Kelley was doing a quality job in the Central net as several Eastern attacks were squashed but time was becoming a factor for the visitors.
With 6:05 showing on the clock, Central called a time out, attempting another scoring drive.
Anderle made a save out of the timeout, then stopped Farr head-on but Cross scored with 5:07 to play and – once again – it was a one goal game at 6-5.
The Lancers quickly got the goal back as Wiggins slipped in a goal with 4:20 remaining and Eastern’s lead was bumped up to two again, this time at 7-5.
Oleszyk missed a shot with 3:52 to play and Wiggins later missed scoring on a rocket of a shot but Eastern kept the possession late.
Another Eastern ball was snared away by Staubley but a goal never materialized as Central had a tough time converting on ground balls that evening.
The Lancers were truly looking for a three-goal cushion that could have salted the event away but Central wouldn’t comply.
Anderle kept making big saves – one with 1:43 remaining – as the Lancers were keeping the pressure on.
“He had a great game,” said Piazza of Anderle. “He’s had his ups and downs this season but he definitely pulled through today, definitely had the best game of his life.”
Staubley scored with 65 seconds showing on the clock, making it a 7-6 match, and the contest was hanging in the balance.
Once again, Staubley had the ball out of the center face-off and even as Eastern nearly got it back, the Rams called time with 47 seconds left in regulation.
Central set up for a final shot and had the ball with 12 seconds remaining
But Eastern locked it down in the end and off a mad scramble, the ball slipped out of bounds as the final horn sounded and there was an Eastern mob at its own goal – celebrating its 7-6 win over the Rams.
“I couldn’t be prouder of my boys,” said Gumpert. “The times they needed to be unselfish, they were and the times that it was just time to pull back and rip a shot, they did.”
And hopefully for the Lancers, the squad uses the win as a springboard for the final game of the year and beyond.
“To have [the win] happen on senior night against Central at home, all that stuff, these are the nights that we hope that next year, late winter, we kind of encourage some kids to sign up and make this young program kind of grow up a little bit more,” said Gumpert.
To comment on this story or to contact staff writer Michael Letendre, email him at MLetendre@BristolObserver.com.