TOWNSEND — One of the North Middlesex boys soccer team’s best wins this season came early in the season when they picked up a 1-0 win over Wachusett Regional in Holden.
The Mountaineers came to Townsend for the rematch looking to even the score and did just that. After a titanic struggle that was scoreless for 78 minutes, the visitors scored with two minutes to play to post a 1-0 victory.
“This was a great game,” said North Middlesex coach Pen Burnham. “We had some opportunities that we weren’t able to convert, and goaltender Scott Cavanaugh played a great game but this was a tough loss.”
The Mountaineers came out playing aggressively and buzzed in the offensive end for most of the first six minutes of the contest. At 7:30 Wachusett picked up a great scoring chance. Brian Zanghi sent a pass to Lenior Sery, who was cutting down the slot, and he fired a skidding shot that was tipped wide by diving North Middlesex goaltender Cavanaugh, who made 16 saves in the game.
After Wachusett had the first four shots on goal in the contest, the Patriots started to create some offense near the midway point of the first half. At 15 minutes, Asa Okerman sifted a pass between a pair of Wachusett defenders to Drew Dion, who outran a defender only to see Mountaineer netminder Luke Matys race out of his net to dive on the loose ball.
At 20 minutes, a North Middlesex throw-in came in front of the net and was knocked down by a Wachusett defender. Jon Nelson of the Patriots pounced on the loose ball but his shot sailed over the cross bar.
Wachusett committed a number of fouls, which gave the Patriots free kicks and offensive chances. North Middlesex started to get more comfortable defensively, receiving strong play from Dylan Kimbar and Drew Donovan.
At 24 minutes, North Middlesex’s Alex Dellacanonica came up with a big defensive play. Wilson Espino of Wachusett took a lead pass on left wing from Zanghi and cut in toward the net, but Dellacanonica broke up the play with a well-timed sliding tackle.
With five minutes left, Cavanaugh made a leaping save off a testing shot from right wing to keep the scoreless game intact and the teams went to intermission with no score and the Mountaineers holding an 8-3 edge in shots on goal.
Wachusett owned an edge in play in the second half and did a solid job of creating chances with nine corner kicks in the final 40 minutes. The Mountaineers tried to use the strategy of ripping low, skidding kicks from the corner, but the North Middlesex defense of Justin Dellacanonica, Drew Donovan and Zach Miller responded and turned the balls away.
Cavanaugh showed confidence and sure hands as the stopped hard, skidding shots from Kyle Toohey and Sery. The senior netminder’s best stop came at the midway point of the half when Sery caught up to a lead chip from Dustin Hughes and ripped a 20-yard shot that was tipped over the crossbar by Cavanaugh.
The Patriots mounted a threat at the 24-minute mark when Dion’s long throw-in in front of the goal was deflected by Matt Foley, but Matys made the save.
Wachusett saw a golden opportunity slip through its fingers with 10 minutes left. A well-placed corner kick came in front of the net and ended up on the foot of a wide-open Toohey, who fired a shot over the cross bar from point blank range.
Toohey made amends in a big way with the game-winning goal at 38 minutes. Sery made a perfect cross from right wing to the left post, and Toohey one-timed a shot inside the post from close range.
“Cavanaugh deserved a shutout,” said Burnham. “We were a little shorthanded at the end and I think we wore down a little bit, but we gave it everything we had.”