MANCHESTER, NH – Joshua DiPasquale scored his second goal of the game with 5:34 to play in regulation, lifting No. 11 Conant past No. 6 Derryfield, 3-2, in the opening round of the Division III State Tournament.
Derryfield found itself in a 2-0 hole less than 17 minutes into the game. The Cougars fought back, eventually tying the game, 2-2, in the 52nd minute on a goal from Capt. Chili Cabot,
But as the second half wore on, Derryfield was unable to maintain its energy level. Conant, playing like the fresher team, applied steady pressure, keeping the Cougars’ backs scrambling and eventually breaking through with the game-winner.
“We came out in the second half and we were playing much better and got that other goal to tie it up,” said longtime Derryfield Coach Jeff Cousineau. “But then, I think, we ran out of legs (stamina).”
With the win, Conant (9-7-1) moves on to the D-III quarterfinals, where the Orioles will take on No. 3 Mascoma Valley, a 4-1 winner over Winnisquam.
Derryfield, which entered the tournament having won six of its last seven games, ends its season at 11-5-0.
Conant and Derryfield met just once in the regular season, with the Cougars earning a hard-fought 1-0 win back in early September. Cousineau said the two games were similar, in terms of style and flow. Still, Derryfield seemed to be caught off-guard by the superior speed of Conant’s front six. The Orioles used that speed to dominate the midfield and force numerous turnovers in the Cougars’ end of the field.
Conant came out aggressively and grabbed a 1-0 lead on a goal by DiPasquale in the 1st minute. That first wave of attack set the tone for the Orioles’ game plan — attack, pressure, pressure, attack and then pressure some more. DiPasquale was relentless, firing 12 shots in the direction of the Derryfield net and keeper Tyler Marsden (9 saves).
“They came at us very quick, with a lot of pressure, and we weren’t managing that very well,” said Couiseneau. “There were plays to be made but we weren’t making them.”
Derryfield found itself down 2-0 in the 16th minute, on a goal from Orioles’ midfielder Ben Sawyer. Marsden had come out of the net to make an excellent stop on a bid by DiPasquale. But the rebound bounced around near the top of the box and before Marsden could get back into position, Sawyer had found the back of the net.
That second goal seemed to inject a sense of urgency into the Cougars’ game and the answered quickly. Less than two minutes later, forward Myles Rozen corralled a lead pass and made a nice run deep down the right side. Rozen planted his left foot and curled a perfect pass to the front of the Conant net. JJ Jordan didn’t bother letting the ball hit the ground, ripping a 0ne-timer past Conant keeper Ben Ramirez (7 saves).
“To get that third goal about a minute after they scored was big,” said Cousineau. “That second goal really didn’t have a chance to sink in, so we felt like we were still chasing just the one goal.”
Derryfield trailed, 2-1, into the second half, before Cabot netted the equalizer. The goal came on an outstanding individual play. Forward Tad Faulkner chipped an entry pass into Cabot, who fought to gain position against Conant back Manny Hodgson, about five yards in front of the net. Cabot not only controlled the pass but was able to keep Hodgson on his back, turn and knock the ball past Ramirez, tying the game, 2-2, with 29:55 remaining.
Derryfield would have scoring chances later in the half but nothing that truly tested Ramirez. Meanwhile, the Cougars’ legs were getting heavy and the Orioles began putting heavy pressure on the Cougars’ defense. Marsden kept the game tied with a handful of outstanding saves, none better than a brilliant stop on DePasquale from point-blank range in the 70th minute.
But eventually, the Conant pressure and the Cougars’ inability to clear the zone cleanly, proved costly. DePasquale got a clean strike from inside the box, beating Marsden and sending the Orioles into the quarterfinals.
“I think we just didn’t help ourselves in those last 10 minutes,” said Cousineau. “We just pinned ourselves in, in ways, and gave up too many opportunities.”