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By Michael Flanagan
Hometown Weekly Sports Editor
No matter the sport, making 31 saves as a goaltender is extremely difficult. In lacrosse, though, 31 saves in a single game is almost unheard of.
Last Wednesday, Needham’s Andrew McNally did just that, stopping 31 shots to help lift the Rockets to a huge 10-9 overtime victory at Acton-Boxborough, marking the second straight season that Needham has knocked off A-B in overtime.
“He’s become that elite goalie that the whole team believed he was going to be for us at the beginning of the season,” said Needham head coach Dave Wainwright following the game. “We’ve had a tradition the last several years of senior goalies waiting their turn and emerging their senior year. I think the last 10 years, we’ve only had one goalie play two years consecutively and he is in that long line. He’s emerged and definitely taken advantage of his turn with an incredible season that we’ll never forget, keeping us in some games that we definitely should have lost. That was, in my mind, kind of the story of today’s game. They had 31 shots on that he was able to turn away and I’m not really convinced that if Andrew isn’t in there holding it down that we end up winning. This guy is just amazing with what he’s able to do for us. The saves and some of the reads he’s making on clears just make us a better team.”
If it were not for McNally’s out-of-this-world performance in the crease, BU commit and junior attack-man Jason Child, who netted four goals including the overtime game-winner on the man-up, as well as dishing out three helpers, would have been deemed the hero for the Rockets (11-5, 8-1).
Needham began the game hot, scoring two goals in the first 1:30, thanks to a left-handed rip by senior captain Danny McEvoy (four goals, two assists) and a dodge and finish down low on the left-hand by Child. A-B responded with three straight goals after going down 0-2 to take a 3-2 lead midway through the second quarter.
Senior attack-man Michael Calcagni evened the game at three for Needham with a finish at the doorstep off of a feed from Jake Doherty with 6:22 to play in the half. The Colonials then netted two straight to take a two-goal lead at 5-3 before junior midfielder Brendan Walsh fired home a right-handed crank to cut the deficit to 5-4 with 2:08 to play. The Rockets trailed by one at halftime.
Despite Acton-Boxborough beginning the second half with back-to-back EMO opportunities, McNally stood tall with four straight saves to keep it a 5-4 game. McEvoy’s second of the game on a lefty bouncer knotted the game at five for Needham with 6:34 to play in the third, but A-B responded just 1:02 later to seize back the lead at 6-5 off of a fast break.
Child fought right back for Needham, however, tying the game at six with a left-handed crank with 4:36 to play in the quarter before completing the hat trick just moments later off a feed from Walsh to give the Rockets back the lead at 7-6 at the end of three.
Walsh found McEvoy at the crease for the senior captain’s third of the afternoon to double Needham’s lead to a pair of goals at 8-6 with 9:32 to play in the fourth. A series of saves on an A-B man-up opportunity by McNally kept the game at 8-6 for Needham with five minutes to play, but A-B finally cut the deficit down to one with 3:15 to play with a goal off-stick side. The Colonials tied the game at eight off of transition with 2:29 remaining, but Needham seized back the lead with just 28 seconds left thanks to McEvoy, who fired home a left-handed bouncer on the EMO. A-B won the ensuing faceoff and called timeout to set up a play. Following the timeout, the Colonials got the look they were looking for and tied the game at nine with a left-handed crank from about 11 yards away with just eight seconds remaining, forcing overtime. However, the tying goal would be the last time that Acton-Boxborough would touch the ball in this one.
A clutch scoop by John Andre on the opening faceoff of overtime gave Needham possession and the Rockets called timeout to get the right personnel on the field. Child drew a slashing call after taking a stick to the neck on a roll-dodge to set up an EMO opportunity with the chance to win the game. With 1:35 to play in the extra period, Walsh came streaking from behind the cage and found Child alone in an open pocket from about 12 yards out, and the future Terrier beamed home the game-winning goal off-stick side to give the Rockets the 10-9 victory.
“Jason, if you give him daylight he’s going to take it,” said Wainwright. “He got the daylight he wanted and he understood that he needed to beat the kid on the back-stick side, which is something we distilled on the guys in practice throughout the week to shoot on A-B’s goaltender off-stick [side]. We scored a decent amount of goals on the low-end and the guy’s took the coaching they were given and they executed and made the most of it. Right there, as I said, Jason saw the daylight after some good off-ball [movement] to get open and shooter’s shoot, he just did that and it got us the result we wanted.”
Wainwright also credited the hustle and determination of one of his senior captains, John Andre, who fought through a pair of stick checks and stuck to the basic fundamentals of lacrosse by scooping up a critical groundball off the opening faceoff of overtime to allow the Rockets the chance to win the game.
“We’ve been struggling on the faceoff itself,” said Wainwright. “But on the wing play, we have some good athleticism that’s been able to make up the difference. When we create a loose ball and it’s fifty-fifty for a GB, our guys have come clutch in some big moments and that’s what happened on that faceoff to begin the overtime. John Andre, one of our captains and leaders, certainly has the knack for it.”
For funny and incisive sports analysis, follow Mike Flanagan on his personal Twitter at @fLAno0, or read his blog at www.flannylive.wordpress.com.