LEOMINSTER — At the midway point of the season it seemed improbable, but after Wednesday's do-or-die game, the Leominster High boys' lacrosse team achieved its biggest team goal. A quick start left no doubt as the Blue Devils downed visiting Bromfield, 8-1, at Doyle Field to clinch a playoff spot.
Leominster (9-9, 7-5 Midland B) concludes its regular season by winning seven of its last 10 games. Bromfield, which lost in overtime to Leominster earlier in the season, falls to 3-15 (1-11 Midland B).
“It took a couple of minutes for us to warm up to the game,” Leominster head coach Colin Davis said. “Then we fought back and got a couple of key goals in there. In the second quarter I thought we really took over the game, it was big for us to come out of halftime and keep that energy going.”
“We are feeling confident about the playoffs. We don't know where we are going to play, but we plan on leaving everything on the field, and when we do that good things happen.”
The Blue Devils got a big boost from attack Chris Benham, who scored two goals and tallied an assist as part of a six-goal first half.
“(Benham) had a great game and got our momentum going early,” Davis said. “He's got a great shot when he lets it go. He was really ripping them today. He scored some huge goals for us.”
Leominster goalie Derek Houde was stellar between the pipes once again with the team's season on the line, tallying 15 saves after having 16 in Monday's 5-4 win over St. Bernard's.
“Our goalie and defense did us a lot of favors today,” Davis said. “Holding a team like that to one goal is no small task. Timing is everything, and Houde made clutch key stops. He did it Monday night for us, and he was here again today. Every time we needed a big save, he did it.”
The contest looked like it was trending toward another classic battle as Bromfield jumped out early with a goal from Matty Buckle at the 9:27 mark of the first quarter.
Leominster responded when Cam Cordio found Benham in front, and Benham flung a side-arm shot to tie the game at 1-1 90 seconds later.
Benham earned a crucial helper next when he found Tyler Cuddahy (2 goals, assist) one-on-one on an island with the Bromfield goalie, which made it a 2-1 advantage with 3:53 left in the first.
The Blue Devils really turned up the intensity in the second quarter, effectively putting the game out of reach. Benham launched a shot from near the 20-yard line, then nine seconds later Cuddahy dropped it back to Andrew Bouchard, who made it a 4-1 advantage.
“Leominster's offense was much better,” Bromfield head coach Joe Gatto said. “Their goalie played much better and he made four or five saves (that) could have gone the other way and been a different game.”
With time ticking down before halftime, the Blue Devils punched in two more daggers. Cordio wrestled his way through three defenders, tallying a marker with 2:57 left until the break.
Then Cudddahy crashed the net while suffering a slash, but still managed to put it home, extending the lead to 6-1.
“We were moving the ball around crisply and let our defense rest,” Davis said. “When we let our goalie and defense rest, this is the type of score we are capable of. That is going to be a key for us going forward, we have to play great defense, good goaltending, and stay out of the penalty box.”
It was a defensive stalemate in the third quarter, but Leominster was able to tally some additional insurance in the fourth. Cordio found Bouchard at the doorstep with 6:04 left, and senior Peter Dandini scored on a spin move from 10 yard out 25 seconds later to cap off the scoring at 8-1.
“(Dandini) was huge with faceoffs,” Davis said. “The kid is just all heart and has only been playing for one year. He guts it out for us.”