EXETER — It seemed like destiny for the Monadnock boys’ lacrosse team.
It seemed that way when the Huskies took a three-goal lead in the third quarter. It seemed so again when they scored the tying goal with just over two seconds to play.
But a trip to the Division III state finals wasn’t meant to be. An overtime game-winner by Hopkinton’s Allan Faulkner made sure of that.
No. 3 seed Monadnock was eliminated in the semifinals for the third straight year on Thursday, falling to the No. 2 seed and two-time defending champion in extra time, 11-10.
“Up until the last, probably, four minutes, I guess you could say we played the game we had to,” said senior co-captain Chris Boucher, who finished with three goals and two assists. “We were all confident going into it that, with the group of seniors we had and the group of guys that stepped up, we had a legitimate chance. We just came up a little short.”
The high-stakes contest between two teams that went into overtime in their regular-season bout lived up to its billing.
In a game that featured seven ties and eight lead changes, the Huskies overcame the odds to deliver the last strike of regulation and one of the day’s biggest highlights.
Getting the ball with a 10-9 deficit and less than a minute to go, Monadnock’s first two attacks at the net failed, but a penalty on the Hawks gave the Huskies the ball back with 5.8 seconds left on the clock (which was later corrected to 7.0 seconds).
After a timeout, Monadnock came onto the field with a plan: have senior co-captain Chris Boucher take the ball, try to go around his defender and score, and if that’s not there, look for a man to pass to.
Boucher wound up going with Plan B. After fighting around his defender, he tossed the ball to fellow senior Dominic Dow (two goals), who whipped it into the net for the equalizer. The timing of the goal, the stakes of the game, and the fact that the Huskies tend to be more of a dodge-first, pass-second team made it perhaps the most improbable play of the season.
“Even going out and picking up that ball, we didn’t have a foolproof plan of what we were doing,” Boucher said. “We kind of just ran what we’ve been doing all year and it clicked.”
It wasn’t quite enough though.
Just over a minute into the extra period, Paul Molnar ran the ball past midfield — despite getting knocked over and losing his stick — and passed it to Faulkner, who whipped it past Monadnock junior goalie Joey Drew. Drew finished with eight saves.
“God love him, (Drew is) a first-year goalie, never played lacrosse in his life,” said senior co-captain Chandler Matson, who scored three goals. “He’s having to adapt to different fields and different field conditions, and the entire season he did a hell of a job.”
The unfamiliar turf of Exeter High School’s Bill Ball Stadium made it more difficult for players to keep their footing and properly measure their bounce shots, making for a sloppier, more physical, defensive slugfest.
The two teams combined for 40 turnovers in a tightly-contested game in which every goal was precious.
“I think everybody was playing each other tight,” Monadnock Coach Rob Hart said. “There wasn’t much separation between players, and it was, I think, physically and emotionally draining for the guys out there. They played their hearts out.”
The first period ended with a 2-1 lead for the Hawks as both teams struggled to find an offensive rhythm. The Huskies started to put things together, opening the second with a 4-1 run on goals by Dow, Matson, senior co-captain Tim Hart (two goals) and Boucher, but Hopkinton’s Joe Sawitsky cut the lead back to one with two minutes to go in the half.
When Monadnock scored twice in the first three minutes of the third — on goals by Boucher and Matson — they seemed to have a comfortable lead in this slower, lower-scoring affair.
That didn’t turn out to be the case, though. Hopkinton broke the Huskies’ scoring run less than a minute later, than two-and-a-half minutes later scored two goals within a minute of each other to tie the game, ending the third at 7-7.
“I don’t know,” Rob Hart said. “They probably just got a little more opening and put them on net. That’s what you’ve got to do.”
Faulkner finished with a game-high five goals and one assist — including the game-winner, while Corey Breault tallied two goals and two assists and Sawitsky and Colby Quiet scored twice each.
It was a tough way for things to end for Monadnock, but three straight trips to the semifinals and nearly upending the defending champs is nothing to sneeze at.
For the Huskies’ seven seniors — Matson, Boucher, Dow, Tim Hart, co-captain Isaac Jasinski, Cole Elfreich and Greyson Bolewski — may not walk away with the coveted title, but they end their lacrosse careers with a well of memories and personal growth as they now get ready for Saturday’s graduation.
“It’s been amazing,” Matson said. “With (lacrosse) just starting out as something to improve my game with football, I’ve made relationships that I didn’t have before, I learned a lot of new techniques, I not just got faster, but every aspect of my game, whether it’s strength, agility, linear speed, anything like that, it’s improved.
“I’m gonna be forever thankful for it and I’m gonna very much miss it.”