LACONIA, N.H. – If revenge is a dish best served cold, Eamon Lapalme and his senior teammates waited four years.
And the temperature? Mid 30s.
Indeed, Lapalme and the Trinity High School boys soccer team earned a second-straight championship Friday following 100 minutes of back-and-forth play in regulation and overtime in near-freezing temperatures to take the 2-1 (2-0) win following a penalty-kick shootout over rival Campbell Friday night at Laconia’s Bank of New Hampshire Stadium.
“They did it to us four years ago when I was a freshman, so to do it to them (tonight) was kind of sweet revenge,” said Lapalme, referring to Campbell’s 1-0 shootout win over Trinity in the 2018 state championship game.
Lapalme, now the Pioneers’ team captain, scored the first of Trinity’s two penalty-kick goals, while classmate Conor Bosworth notched the decisive second goal in PKs.
Junior goalie Sam Reine, who carried the team through four tightly-contested playoff matches, saved three shots in the shootout, along with several pivotal stops during the game to boost Trinity to another title.
“That’s what every goalie dreams of, saving the final PK (to win a championship),” said Reine. “It’s an amazing feeling. I’m still shaking.”
Reine, a German exchange student, joined the team a few games into the regular season and provided an instant spark to a team that began it’s title defense stumbling to a 4-3 record out of the gate.
“He was a (heck) of a gift,” said Lapalme of his keeper. “He came out of nowhere and was the hero of the team.”
“He won some big games for us, made some big saves and was really the difference, especially tonight,” said first-year Trinity head coach Phil Tuttle.
Trinity appeared to have the game secured during regulation, scoring the go-ahead goal on a low-liner from Austin Pepin that found the back corner of the net less than three minutes into the second half. But with a little more than 5 minutes remaining in the contest, Campbell senior standout Ryan Latsha got a throw-in deep in Trinity territory and took advantage, heaving the ball toward the net. Reine made the save in traffic, but conceded the rebound.
The Cougars kept the pressure on for the rest of the half and then Trinity regained momentum and carried possession for the majority of the two overtimes, but neither team could bury the game-winner despite several quality opportunities from both sides.
It was Trinity, however, that exhibited its trademark winning edge to successfully defend its D-III crown in PKs.
“We knew it was going to be a battle,” said Campbell head coach Brian Henderson. “We went down and I’m super proud of my boys for crawling back. It’s not easy in a game like this and they worked, they fought, they climbed back in, and the bitter part of this is that it was PKs, not an actually play, so it’s a tough pill to swallow.”
Of course, winning tight games is nothing new for the Pioneers. After edging 12th-seed Raymond, 2-1, in double overtime in the first round, Trinity traveled to fourth-ranked Conant and won, 2-1, on penalty kicks. Then Monday night, in the state semifinals, it was Lapalme who buried the game-winner in overtime to knock out undefeated top-seed Gilford, 2-1.
Yet after the cool start to the season, even Lapalme admitted that not many people would have predicted Trinity’s successful title defense.
“We definitely weren’t supposed to be here,” said Lapalme.
Tuttle credited Lapalme and junior co-captain Nathan Shipman with sparking the team’s success down the stretch and into the playoffs.
“The last 12 games we went 11-0-1 and I’d give those two guys a ton of credit for that,” he said. “They’re the ones who really got behind the team and said, ‘hey, 4-3 isn’t good enough for this school, we’ve got to do better,’ and the guys responded to them, and they really came through. They scored big goals and were just the rallying cry behind everything we were doing.”