WELLESLEY, Mass. – It was this time a year ago when Wellesley stormed into Billerica and ruined the Indians’ opener with a win.
On Thursday, it was the No. 12 Indians’ chance to stomp on the Raiders’ opening day festivities.
Senior attacks Ben Melaugh and Cam Slatton worked their chemistry throughout and worked together to give Billerica the game-winning goal. Melaugh set up Slatton with the a tie-breaking goal with a minute left in regulation for a 6-5 win over No. 3 Wellesley.
Melaugh (2 G, 2A) and Slatton (2 G, A) combined to tally seven of the Indians’ nine points on the afternoon while junior goaltender and UMass recruit D.J. Smith made it all stand up with 15 saves.
“Last year, they took away our first game, so we wanted to come back here and win it,” Smith said.
The game was largely decided by a couple of ground balls in Billerica’s favor in the final minutes.
Slatton’s game-winner was set in motion on a ground ball pick up in the defensive half by junior midfielder Sean Farmer. After the scoop, Farmer ran the ball into the offensive half, dished to Melaugh on the wing who then found Slatton out front. Slatton’s rip from 15 yards out found nothing but twine.
Another ground-ball win by Indians senior long-stick Nick DelMonaco in the final minute, along with some sloppy possession play from the Raiders’ attack, helped ice the victory for the Billerica (2-1).
“I think we generated 25 shots and I don’t think we generated 25 shots last year,” Wellesley head coach Rocky Batty said. “But you take shots, you’ve got to finish.”
SMITH IS SHARP
Smith’s play on Thursday drew high praise from Indians head coach Craig Flynn, who called it the “game of his career.” In addition, it was set against the backdrop of a matchup between two of the states top netminders, as Smith was opposed by fellow ESPN Boston All-Stater Connor Darcey.
“It was a huge matchup between basically the two top goaltenders in the state.”
At no point was Smith better than the third quarter, when he kicked, swatted and gobbled up six saves. Although the Raiders (0-1) possessed for the bulk of play in the quarter, Smith and the Billerica long poles held strong.
“Tommy [McLaughlin] and Brian LeClair, they played great at X covering them and they didn’t let them at the X and didn’t let get past the [goal line extended],” Smith said of the defensive group in front of him. “Danny [Lynch] played on the crease, he didn’t let them get any passes. They played great altogether our D-poles.”
Batty thought his team won a small victory in limiting the Indians’ top scoring duo of Melaugh and Slatton to four goals.
It speaks volumes about the respect opposing coaches have for the pair, who both tallied 100-plus point seasons last year.
Of course, that was done in the shadow of ESPN Boston 2011 Mr. Lacrosse and current UMass attack Grant Whiteway. Now, it’s time for Melaugh and Slatton to shine.
“We’ve been playing ever since we were, what, maybe 8 year old, I don’t even know,” “It’s been a while though. We’ve known each other is and we’re able to find each other.”
MONKEY OFF THE BACK?
Always a colorful interview, Batty joked with reporters postgame that his team was, in fact, fallible.
Certainly, the Raiders entered the season with a boatload of attention as Division 2 favorites, grabbing the No. 3 spot in our preseason Top 25 poll along with a spot in the ESPNHS FAB 50.
While a loss isn’t the way the Raiders wanted to start their campaign, their head coach also admitted it might not be the worst thing in the world.
“We’ll be better for this in the long run,” Batty said.