WOONSOCKET — Minutes following Mount St. Charles’ 1-0 loss to fellow Division II stalwart Lincoln High on Friday afternoon, head coach Paul Jacques worried not so much about the verdict but the health of junior keeper Ben Weiss.
With 17:30 remaining in the opening half, Lions’ senior tri-captain Alex D’Aloisio fired a pass from the deep left corner toward Weiss as he guarded the net. The liner got through the defense, and Weiss deflected the ball away, but went down in a heap.
Apparently, a Lincoln forward had tried to knock the carom off the goalie inside the right post, and the two collided.
“Ben was going for a loose ball, and a Lincoln player hit him simultaneously to the save; there was nothing dirty about it, (and) it was a clean play,” Jacques stated later. “We’re still waiting to hear how he is. I know his parents were taking him to the hospital. There is a possibility of a concussion, but naturally we hope it isn’t.
“Right now, I’m just thinking about him and that he’s OK,” he added. “We’re all hoping that reports from the doctors will come back negative, and that he’ll return soon.”
Jacques replaced Weiss, a standout netminder, with senior Chris Miele, who hadn’t seen an iota of action in the cage in over 24 months. On his first save attempt, it appeared he came out of the net when – during a scrum in front – D’Aloisio gained possession and delivered a try inside the left post.
Fact was he didn’t. Officials deemed it an “own goal,” meaning one of Miele’s defenders had mistakenly poked it into the netting. D’Aloisio nevertheless received credit for being so close to the play, and that’s how the Mounties fell to 8-2-3 in league action (11-2-3 overall).
In the end, the Lions made the tally hold up, and improved to 9-2-2 in D-II and 9-4-3 overall. They hadn’t scored at all in a 2-0 defeat to Mount Pleasant on Tuesday, and gaining that early advantage proved critical.
“I thought we did play with more confidence after we scored,” noted Lincoln chief John D’Aloisio afterward. “Then again, you always seem to get a lift when you need one so badly. This is a huge win against a very solid team. I know they had two tough games against Middletown and Classical (before this one), and I think that helped us.
“As much as I hate to single anyone out, (junior) Jack Bacon came through for us,” he added of the keeper who finished with 10 saves. “All of the guys played well, but he definitely deserves special credit.”
With the triumph, Lincoln closed in on league-leading Toll Gate; they now are virtually tied for first place with 29 points. MSC, on the other hand, now has 27.
“I think the kids are extremely disappointed, as am I, but they’re a great group, and I know we’ll bounce back,” Jacques offered. “They’ll focus on the good things they did, and do some work on some of the negatives they may have had and try to improve on them.”
Not so surprisingly, the Mounties carried play through the second 10 minutes of the opening stanza. In fact, it looked as if they would penetrate the net when junior midfielder Dan Weiss raced down the right side and rifled a high, hard one at Bacon. Classmate John Cutler went up for the header, but the keeper snagged the save.
MSC senior tri-captain/forward Colin Berg had another chance almost 14 minutes into the half after delivering a rope from the right corner at a teammate, though he missed the header and allowed junior Josh Gillen to drive it away.
Then came Ben Weiss’ injury, and Miele trotted into the net, but the Mounties’ assault continued. With 15:04 remaining before the break, senior Jake Leahey sprinted down the right sideline and crushed a try at the right post. Still, Bacon made a sprawling stop.
It looked like the Lions would push their advantage to 2-0 with 11 minutes elapsed in the second session when senior Colby Alves sent a pass from the deep right corner toward the goalie box. Junior Nick Palumbo picked it out of the air with his right foot and fired at Miele, though it floated just over the crossbar.
The MSC assault nevertheless continued. With 21:52 left in regulation, senior Ryan Diogo stationed himself just outside the box and fired a low liner at Bacon. The latter made the initial save, but it drifted past him; that’s when senior John Ariza cleared it from harm’s way.
Exactly 17:01 remained when referees whistled the younger D’Aloisio for a “hand” ball inside his own penalty area, and awarded junior Mike Doody a penalty kick. He walloped a liner toward Bacon’s midsection, but still found the wherewithal to drive it up and over his cage.
“That was a remarkable save,” shrugged Coach D’Aloisio.
Stated Jacques: “Mike had a beautiful shot on net; I thought it was a bit too much at the keeper, but Jack made an incredible save. That ball was struck so hard. It was just a great shot and a great save.”
At Jacques’ behest, his defenders moved more into the offensive zone in an attempt to knot it, and it looked as if a couple would succeed. With 7:10 still left on the new scoreboard clock, sophomore Matthew White whacked a 15-yard grounder at Bacon, though he responded with aplomb.
And, with only 2:08 remaining, senior tri-captain Peter O’Brien dribbled down the middle, juked a pair of defenders and ripped a low try at Bacon. Again, he dove for the save.
“I thought Chris stepped up and had a huge game for us,” Jacques said of Miele, who halted seven shots after Weiss had made three in his approximate 22-minute stretch in goal. “He hasn’t played keeper in about two years, so I can’t be more proud of the way he played. He took a big leadership role for us.
“On the goal, Chris wasn’t at fault; our defense should have cleared it,” he continued. “I still think our defense is getting better every game. They shut down a very good Lincoln team, and they did so because they played under control. We had two seniors playing (defense) on the outside, (seniors) Andrew Van Winter and Peter O’Brien, and they played smart.
“We had one of our other captains (senior Billy Burns) out due to injury, and that didn’t help. Right now, we’ve got to stay focused. This will hurt for a bit (now), but they’ll come back Monday re-energized. I have to let them know that the season isn’t over, that we have two big games left to go in our regular season.
“We have to play a very tough team in Mount Hope at their place (Tuesday at 6 p.m.), and it’s their Senior Night. We also have Moses Brown here on Friday (at 3:45). Both of those teams have been tremendous the past two weeks, so we’re going to have our work cut out for us.”
The Lions also have a pair remaining, but is hell-bent on earning the top seed in the D-II playoffs.
“Right now, it’s a battle between Toll Gate, Coventry, Mount and us,” D’Aloisio mentioned. “We’re going to have to keep improving.”