MEDWAY, Mass. – Trailing by six goals at halftime and five after the third quarter, Sharon rallied to try and extend its season for at least one more round. Led by three goals from senior Matt Cancian, the Eagles got as close as two goals and had a three-on-none break that could have made it even closer.
Unfortunately, the Eagles ran out of time and Medway goalie Tanner Pearl made a series of strong saves that preserved the lead as the pressure mounted. The Mustangs managed to hold on for the final six minutes and advanced with a 14-12 victory in Tuesday night’s Div. 2 Central/East first round game at Hanlon Field.
“We brought it in at halftime and we kind of asked ourselves, how do we want to go out?” explained first-year head coach Pete DeSisto. “We were down a good amount and it was just kind of a gut-check.”
The Mustangs dominated the first half and every time that Sharon got on the board Medway seemed to respond with a couple of its own.
Junior Jake Tomsik opened the scoring 90 seconds into the game and that was quickly matched by Cancian, who won the face-off and raced down to score his first. Adam Dwyer came right back for Medway but Mark Bloom tied it again with a step back rip that snuck inside the far post.
Tim Niklas drove into the middle to regain the lead (a lead that Medway would never relinquish) and then a long Mustangs possession ended in a Collin Kennealley goal off a back cut. Seconds later Tomsik scored with a backhand shot in traffic to make it 5-2 after the first.
Josh Rotman scored his first with a shot in traffic to cut the lead to two, but Sharon mistakes helped Medway build a five-goal lead midway through the quarter. Rotman scored his second to cut the lead to 8-4 but James Anderson went 50 yards straight down the middle to answer right back and Tomsik’s third made it 10-4 at the break.
Whatever was said at halftime turned the tide for the Eagles, who dominated possession in the third quarter, although they struggled to cut into the lead.
Needing to find a way back into the game, Sharon looked to its senior trio of Cancian, Bloom, and Titus.
DeSisto said, “It started with our seniors. They brought everyone out, they set the example that the younger guys seemed to follow. It just seemed a little too late at the end.”
Bloom scored first but three minutes later Dwyer was allowed to run straight down the middle to beat Dan Spelfogel (six saves). Craig Titus leapt and finished on the edge of the crease and Bloom picked out Titus for a man-up goal that brought Sharon within four goals.
But, with a minute left in the third, Ben Steinhoff also found plenty of space in the middle of the defense to give Medway a 12-7 advantage heading to the fourth.
“At the beginning of the year, no one who played defense for us had gotten varsity time and from where we came from at the beginning of the year to now is leaps and bounds,” said DeSisto about the performance of his defensive unit. “We definitely have a bright future.”
Rotman started the comeback with a lefty shot on the run and then Cancian quickly added another with a shot into the bottom corner. Steinhoff got one back straight off the draw, but Cancian scored a man-up goal to make it 13-10 and then won the draw and came down to score with an overhand shot to the corner.
“He did everything,” said DeSisto of Cancian. “e started to take over at the end. He hurt his ankle early in the second half and just manned up and kept going. It was a real gutsy performance.”
Anderson again found a lane in the middle to get an important insurance goal for the Mustangs, but Rotman bullied his way to his fourth goal of the game to make the deficit just two with 6:15 to play.
In the fourth, Jack Lesser twice hit the post and Cancian and Rotman both saw Pearl come up with big saves to rob them of sure goals. Lesser also had a chance in transition to cut the lead to one, but his shot on the break went wide and Pearl chased it down quickly to get Medway possession.
“I can’t even think about the amount of saves he made with just the tip of his toe or something like that and yeah if we buried three more of those then we’re talking about something else,” DeSisto reflected.
It was not the way the first-year coach was hoping to end his season but with only three seniors on this year’s roster, the Eagles have plenty of promise for the future.
“I’m excited,” said DeSisto. “We’re losing three unbelievable players…but we had a really young team this year.
“To be where we’re at now says a lot about our seniors and juniors and upperclassmen but it says a lot about our freshmen and their willingness to go out there and learn.”
Josh Perry can be contacted at JoshPerry@hockomocksports.com and followed on Twitter at @Josh_Perry10.