GROTON — Oakmont traveled to Groton and nearly rained on the Groton-Dunstable boys soccer team’s parade in the season opener for both teams. The Spartans led most of the way, only to see senior captain Derek McCaffrey salvage a 1-1 tie for the Crusaders with a goal with 4:04 to play.
Groton-Dunstable owned a 14-6 edge in shots on goal in the contest, but struggled to contain Oakmont’s 1-2 punch of Nick Marceau and Jonni Ventura, whose quickness and elusiveness created quality scoring chances in the game.
“Oakmont moved the ball well and their forwards are very fast with the ball,” said Groton-Dunstable coach Jason Gutzler. “We created our share of chances, but often times we had too many touches in front of the goal, along with too many shots over the goal. We had a lot of good individual efforts, but we need to play better together.”
The three best scoring chances over the first 15 minutes all resulted in errant shots.
Just 20 seconds in, Tynan MacLeod of Groton-Dunstable broke in from right wing and fired a hard shot over the cross bar.
At 6:30, Ventura stole the ball and ripped a hard shot over the goal. Five minutes later, Marceau’s turnaround shot from right wing sailed high.
After a sluggish start, the Crusaders started to gain some offensive momentum near the midway point of the first half. At 16:30, McCaffrey headed Ben Chilcoat’s well-placed corner kick, but Oakmont goalkeeper Matt Rheault came up with a diving save to keep the game scoreless.
Groton-Dunstable defender Richard Pomeroy was outstanding defensively, playing with poise and confidence as he broke up a number of Spartan forays into the offensive end.
Oakmont drew first blood, scoring against the flow of play at 33:30 when Marceau took a pass from Tim Belliveau outside the right wing, and rolled a hard shot inside the left post to make it 1-0.
The Crusaders had the final quality scoring chance of the first half when MacLeod stole the ball and fired a shot wide of the left post with 1:30 left.
Groton-Dunstable owned a 6-2 edge in shots on goal over the first 40 minutes.
Groton-Dunstable goaltender T.J. Van Riper (five saves) came up big four minutes after intermssion with a diving stop off Marceau’s hard right wing shot, and the Crusaders cranked it up a notch over the next 10 minutes as they pressed for the equalizer.
McCaffrey’s header, after a well-placed diagonal chip by Peter Ellerkamp, was stopped by Rheault before shots by Chilcoat and McCaffrey were high, and a hard, rolling shot by Alex Merlino after a steal was just wide of the left post.
After Van Riper denied Marceau’s shot from point blank range to keep the game a one goal affair, the Crusaders narrowly missed netting the equalizer at the midway point of the half. McCaffrey ripped a low bullet that was knocked away by Rheault, leading to a corner kick by Chilcoat that was headed over the goal by MacLeod.
Rheault, who made 13 saves in the contest, stopped McCaffrey’s shot from close range after the midfielder had slipped past a pair of Oakmont defenders.
With time winding down, a pair of Crusader captains collaborated on the equalizer. Richard Pomeroy sent a diagonal cross outside the right post and McCaffrey headed it past Rheault and inside the right post to earn the tie.
“It was good to get the goal back in the air on a set play,” said Gutzler. “Ben Chilcoat did a nice job on corner kicks and Alex Merlino played well. Brian McCarron was outstanding defensively, breaking up a lot of plays in front of the net.”