By James Pouliot
---- — WEST NEWBURY – The Newburyport boys lacrosse team (5-1) won a hard-fought battle over Pentucket (4-2) on Friday, beating the Sachems 8-6 in a game with big Cape Ann League ramifications.
Coming into the game, both Pentucket and Newburyport found themselves one game back of Masconomet in the loss column for the lead in the CAL’s Kinney Division, along with Triton and North Reading. By coming out on top, Newburyport remains within striking distance of the Chieftains, while Pentucket now finds itself facing an uphill battle with a lot of traffic in front of it.
Pentucket got off to a strong start, taking a 3-2 lead early, but a tight defense buttressed by Clipper goalie Dillon Guthro blocked the Pentucket offensive and gave Newburyport a chance to keep the game close.
At halftime, the two teams were all knotted up at 5-5, but Newburyport quickly took the lead in the third quarter following a goal from midfielder Brandon Barraclough. Newburyport junior Matt Kelleher scored twice after that to extend the Clippers’ lead to 8-5, giving Newburyport the insurance it would need to put the game away for good.
Kelleher led Newburyport with 4 goals in total, while Pentucket’s Jeff Porter led the Sachems with 3 goals, followed by Connor Beaton, who scored 2 goals, and Brendan Sullivan, who scored one.
The final minutes of the game were marred by tension between the coaches, referees and fans, as Porter, with two minutes on the clock, darted from behind the Newburyport net for a shot, only to be rammed by two Newburyport defenders. When the referees called a foul on both teams, Pentucket head coach Dan Leary shouted at them, unaware that an additional foul had been committed elsewhere on the field.
“My understanding of it was, there was a cross-check on them, then off-ball there was a slash on us, which I didn’t see,” Leary said. “We both ended up with a man down, so it was still five-on-five. We just would’ve loved to have been at a man advantage with two minutes left.”
Despite the disappointment of losing such a tight game, Leary said he was proud of how his team competed, and that he wouldn’t change anything in practice. He congratulated the Newburyport defense for their play.
“We had a couple good looks at the goal with under two minutes,” Leary said. “But Guthro for [Newburyport] is a great goalie and he just ate the shots right up.”
Newburyport coach Ed Gaudiano lauded the Pentucket team and acknowledged that their aggressive offense in the first quarter gave his team trouble.
“I think in the beginning of the game, we didn’t hustle as much as we should’ve on ground balls and gave them a little more possession time than we’d like to,” he said. “Once we got the offense going, we really started to do the things we wanted to do down there.”
Gaudiano said he would continue to drill his players in recapturing ground balls, so that the team can play to their offensive strengths.
“We feel that once we have possession of the ball in our offensive end, we’ll match up against anybody,” he said.
With the win, Newburyport improves to 5-1 on the season, while Pentucket drops to 4-2. The Clippers will be back in action on Tuesday when they face North Reading at home starting at 4 p.m., while the Sachems will make up a game at Manchester Essex this Monday at 3:45 p.m.