By Michael James LeClair
The Nashoba Regional boys’ lacrosse team bounced back in a big way on Thursday evening.
The Chieftains, coming off a tough loss to Westborough, welcomed rival Wachusett Regional to Route 117 and the two locked horns and produced an epic contest that rivaled a postseason contest.
Senior Casey Elkins’s laser beam of a shot found the back of the net with 3:08 remaining in sudden death overtime to boost the host Chieftains to an 8-7 victory.
“Last year I scored the game-winner against Wachusett also so this was big,” said Elkins of his game-winning tally. “I was able to get an open shot and it just rolled off and found the back of the net. Wachusett is our rival so whenever we play against each other it’s always going to be a battle.”
The win pulled Nashoba back to the .500 mark on the infant season at 3-3 overall and 2-2 in the Mid-Wach A. As for the Mountaineers, they dropped to 3-4 overall and 0-4 with the loss to their Mid Wach A foes.
“When you play in the Mid Wach this is the type of grind of the league. I stress it to these guys all the time that we’ve got to be ready and we were ready tonight,” said Nashoba head coach Kevin McNamara. “I felt pretty confident heading into overtime. I thought we could put it away in regulation but it didn’t happen. I thought we took care of the ball really well tonight.”
This one was tight throughout. Wachusett held a slim 2-1 lead after the first quarter only to watch the hosts battle back and win the second quarter to pull even, 3-3 heading into halftime.
The second half proved to be just as tight as the opening 24 minutes. In the third quarter the two clubs traded two goals each to remain deadlocked at 5-5 heading into the fourth quarter.
“I expected this type of intensity. We were coming off a bad loss against Westborough,” said McNamara. “We thought we could have played better. We never held the lead and were never really in there so I expected us to bounce back and come out with a strong effort tonight.”
In the fourth quarter the Chieftains put themselves in the driver’s seat twice and appeared to be on their way to a regulation victory. Eric Demmer potted his second goal of the night with 6:45 left on the clock to give the hosts a 6-5 lead.
The Mountaineers answered inside the final three minute with a goal to tie the game at six. Nashoba once again went on the attack following the Wachusett equalizer and reclaimed the lead with 1:28 left when Robert Braceland blasted one past Wachusett goalie Alex Bickerstaff to make it 7-6.
Wachusett once again answered, this time with 58 seconds left to knot things at seven.
Nashoba had a one last opportunity to win it in regulation with 30 seconds left and possession of the ball the Chieftains head coach called a time out to try and set up one final play to secure a victory.
“The play was to put Elkins and Demmer behind. Those are the guys we want o have the ball and the two guys that are going to make the play,” said McNamara. “We were looking for the backside but Wachusett did a good job of clogging that up.”
The timeout and attempt went for naught as the Mountaineers defense stood stall and prevented a shot on net as the whistle sounded signaling the end of regulation.
After a brief timeout, the players returned to the field turf and five minutes were put on the scoreboard clock. The first goal would be the game winner during this hard fought battle entered its final chapter.
While Elkins would eventually be the hero it was the play of Nashoba junior net minder Robert Atwood that gave the Chieftains a shot. Atwood made several huge saves throughout the night, including a pair early in overtime that kept the hosts alive. Atwood registered double digit saves as he turned away 12 shots in the win.
Braceland, Demmer and Elkins all finished with two goals for Nashoba. Mike Frichty had a hat trick and Griffin Laposta added two goals for Wachusett.