WOONSOCKET — Before Mount St. Charles Academy faced Lincoln High in a Division II-North battle on Thursday afternoon, head coach Doug Allen asked his squad to be aggressive from the start, especially offensively, to set the tone.
It was something the Mounties had failed to do in a 9-7 loss to Providence Country Day only 48 hours earlier.
“We fell behind, 3-0, right away, and we had to work hard to battle back,” Allen stated. “We have a fast-break, running kind of team, and when we get a lead and we unleash the horses, we’re all set. If we don’t, then we’re usually in for a tough game.”
The Mounties did and didn’t follow Allen’s pre-match instructions. They produced a 4-1 cushion early in the second period, allowed the Lions to pull even at 4-4 just over a minute into the third but then tallied five unanswered goals to post a satisfying 10-5 victory at the lower campus field.
Senior attack Ben Handanyan led the charge with four goals, while classmate Drew Lambert added two. Freshman attack Teddie Fenton supplied a goal and four assists, with senior attack Nick Blair (goal), junior midfielder Keegan O’Leary (goal, assist), senior midfielder Chris Brown (goal) and sophomore “middie” Matt Cummings (goal) also helping out on the offensive end.
“Handanyan is one of, if not the best, attack in the state,” Allen insisted after the contest, which pushed MSC to 2-1 overall and 1-1 in league action. “He scored five goals against (non-league foe) Smithfield last Friday, had four against PCD and then added four more here.
“The thing is, because he’s so good, other teams have to focus on him, but we have a lot of good players,” he continued. “When they’re double- or triple-teaming him, that opens things up quite a bit. A perfect example is we had six other guys score goals.
“Ben is smart enough to realize that when opponents are jumping on him, he needs to pass off, and that was a key against Lincoln … The difference (Thursday) from the PCD game was our clears. We’re much better when the goalie makes the save, we get the ball out and then we start running. Against a team like Lincoln, that’s just what you have to do.”
The Mounties needed only 68 seconds to gain a 1-0 lead, Brown netting a mid-range shot past Lincoln senior goalie Tom Tower. However, with 7:24 left in the first stanza, officials called senior Connor McCarty for a one-minute unnecessary roughness penalty, and – just 26 ticks later – junior Geoff Cicatiello stood by his side, the result of a slashing infraction.
Despite that two-man disadvantage, Handanyan raced past the defense and mustered a pretty tally for the 2-0 lead.
Lincoln pulled within one when senior attack Conor Cronan scored a man-advantage goal with 2:05 left.
MSC registered two goals in the span of 26 seconds to snag the 4-1 cushion. With junior middie Jerzy Polak on the sidelines serving a 30-second penalty for holding, Handanyan manufactured a man-up goal with 9:19 remaining, then scored another at even strength at 8:53.
Undaunted, Lincoln battled back, Cronan posted a man-advantage tally at 7:05, and – with only four seconds left before the break – junior attack Drew Wood beat MSC junior Will Perry to slice the gap to 4-3.
The feisty Polak actually knotted the tilt at 4-4 when he drilled a grounder past Perry only 1:02 into the third period, but the Mounties regained the lead at 5-4 just 1:21 later after – who else? – Handanyan scored on a Fenton feed at 9:27.
Over the next 2:47, MSC rallied for three more to, in essence, put the game out of reach. Cummings made it 6-4 on an even-strength tally at 8:42; Lambert manufactured an unassisted goal at 7:30; and Blair took advantage of an outstanding pass from Fenton to notch his first at 6:40.
On the play, Fenton looped beyond the right post, fed Blair streaking toward the left post and the latter rifled it over Tower’s right shoulder.
Fenton himself scored on an unassisted goal with 2:32 left for the 9-4 lead.
“Lincoln plays a really good zone defense; they like to pack it in tight and make you shoot from 15 yards out,” Allen explained. “I don’t know what I said at halftime, but it must have worked. The key was we started running, and it didn’t allow them time to set up that zone.
“They like a nice, close game because they’re a solid, big defense,” he added. “I know a lot of those guys because I live in Lincoln, and even coached some of them in Little League and other sports. The thing about Lincoln is a lot of those guys aren’t exposed to lacrosse until they’re freshmen, and a lot of our kids are playing in youth lacrosse leagues, so they have some experience when they get here.
“It helps us skill-wise, and that background in the sport dictates that we’ll make less mistakes than they will.”
Junior attack Ryan Krohto pulled the Lions to within four with a goal at 5:21, but O’Leary scored on a Cronan pass with 3:18 left to seal the triumph.
“It was a really hard-fought game, and you could tell both teams wanted it badly,” admitted Lincoln coach Patrick Hanley, whose club dropped to 0-2. “Mount’s offense did a great job of moving the ball, and they had great movement as well. They played good, clean lacrosse.”
When asked if his team committed too many turnovers, Hanley smiled and said, “Well, yeah. That’s definitely we need to improve upon, so we’ll go back to work on that, and other things, tomorrow.”
The Mounties outshot Lincoln by a 28-15 count, and Perry mustered 10 saves in the win. Tower finished with 18.
“(Sophomore) Rob Guyon got the game ball, and it’s because he was so solid on defense,” Allen stated. “He just shot down that team, including Polak, who’s an aggressive kid. Rob was only a freshman last year, but he started, and he’s probably grown over four inches since then, so he’s not a tiny defender anymore. You just can’t run through him.
“And Will, he used to be a defender, but our goalie graduated last (June), and we asked Will if he wanted to move. He went to a couple of camps, learned the skills and he’s been super so far.”