KENTS HILL — One of the biggest questions the Maranacook/Winthrop co-op boys lacrosse team faced heading into this season was how it was going to replace the offensive production of Toby Smith and Zach Glazier.

At the surface, Saturday morning’s 5-3 loss to North Yarmouth Academy at Kents Hill School’s Huard Field would seem to indicate that the Hawks are far from finding a solution to that problem.

That, however, was not the reality in Maranacook/Winthrop’s loss to the Panthers. The Hawks, simply put, ran into a very good player that had a great game.

NYA goalkeeper D.J. Nicholas finished the contest with 25 saves — many of which were far from routine — as the Hawks held a 45-22 advantage in total shots for the game.

“That was a tough one. Our defense played great, our clears were awesome, we won the ground ball battle and we did everything that we wanted to do. We did everything that I asked them to do before the game,” Hawks coach Zach Stewart said. “Then their keeper just played out of his mind. That’s just what it comes down to.”

While Nicholas had a tremendous overall game, early on the Hawks did not test him as effectively as they did in the second half and often times tried to beat him up top. That resulted in some easier saves and allowed the Panthers to take a 1-0 lead into the second quarter on Jeremy Thelvin’s score 90 seconds into the game.

NYA’s lead ballooned to 4-0 by the 7:50 mark of the second quarter following goals from Nick Farnham, Jake Rasch and Trevor Lachance.

It was in those types of moments a season ago that the Hawks would turn to either Smith or Glazier to make a play to spark the offense, yet this spring, they will have to find new candidates to fill that void. In this instance it was Bailey Clark, who isolated at the top, spun off an NYA defender and ripped a shot past Nicholas with 1:06 to play in the second quarter to finally get the Hawks on the board.

“I don’t know if Bailey has ever had that role before, but he is stepping up and starting to do that really, really well,” Stewart said. “We’re going to stick in our heels and let Bailey make those shots for us. The kid is so fast. There are going to be very few people that can stand with him toe to toe.”

Stewart also pointed out that it has not just been Clark who has stepped up for Hawks so far and it showed in the game’s final 24 minutes.

Making adjustments on the fly is critical in any sport and in the second half the Hawks found success by mixing up their attempts on Nicholas, at times staying high and others going low. Despite their best efforts, though, it seemed for a while that no matter what they did, Nicholas would not let Maranacook/Winthrop back into the game.

“In the third quarter especially, all of our shots were really, really close, low and away. We just couldn’t dial it in just right,” Stewart said. “Even on the doorstep we were getting him to make two and three moves.”

Neither team scored in the third quarter despite a number of promising chances, but 3:56 into the fourth, Ty Smith cut the deficit in half after he finished off a nice feed from behind the net by Denver Cram.

Ultimately it would not be enough, though, as less than two minutes later Lachance scored his second of the contest to push the lead back to 5-2. Ben McLaughlin’s goal off a Cram assist with 3 minutes to play cut the deficit to two once again, but it would be as close as the Hawks would get. In the fourth quarter alone Nicholas made 10 saves to keep the Hawks from getting too close.

“That guy, he was a wall,” Hawks senior Josh Murphy, who was 10-of-12 on faceoffs, said. “We played a good game but it was just rough getting past him.”

While the result was not what the Hawks had hoped for, they still left the game feeling better about their retooled offense. Both Murphy and Cram noted that they felt the team has the potential to be even more dangerous in the attacking zone this season as a result of greater balance amongst the Hawks’ scoring options.

“We move the ball a lot faster,” Cram said. “…This year we get the ball down, we settle it down and just spin it.

“We’re good. That was a good game, we’ll just learn from it. You’re not going to win them all.”

The other big question facing the Hawks this season was how they would replace goaltender Zach Bessette, yet first-year starter Isaiah Weston certainly showed he was up to the task Saturday. Weston finished with eight saves — a number of which were on good challenges from NYA — and he also was the beneficiary of a strong defensive performance in front of him from Levi Emery, Peter Prescott and Drew Davis.

“Having Levi Emery in front of him gives him all the confidence in the world. Isaiah had a very strong role model in Zach Bessette and that really shows this year,” Stewart said. “When I spoke with him I said, ‘you need to be a leader, you need to lead this defense just like Zach Bessette did.’ He’s stepped up and that’s exactly what he’s done.”

It being the first game of the season there is still plenty of work for the Hawks to do, as well as time to do it, yet for a team that entered with a number of big questions they certainly left with more answers.

Evan Crawley — 621-5640

[email protected]

Twitter: @Evan_Crawley


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