WINCHESTER, Mass. – Down a goal entering the fourth quarter, Winchester wasn’t about to fret. Actually, the Sachems felt they had Burlington on the run.
“By the time the fourth quarter came around, he just told us to keep playing our game,” Winchester attack Chris O’Connell said. “I think we knew if we kept playing, we’d be OK.”
That’s when the Sachems turned a switch on during Friday afternoon’s Division 2 EMass first-round tournament game. First, O’Connell tied the score in the first minute of the fourth, the first in a string of four straight goals in an 8-6 win over their Middlesex League rivals.
Midfielder Tim Mangano scored his game-high fourth goal of the game, providing the Sachems (15-5) with their first lead of the contest at 5:41 of the fourth.
Meanwhile, the No. 24 seed Red Devils (10-10), fresh off a preliminary round upset of No. 9 seed Beverly, looked primed for another ground-shaking win. Burlington scored in the opening minutes of each half, taking a one-goal lead in both instances.
Yet, with momentum on their side, the Red Devils were unable to close.
“Our guys have been in tight games, they understand the circumstances,” Burlington head coach Rob Parkin said. “When you’re part of tight games, you’ve got to clamp down and be mistake free. I don’t think we played mistake free ball in the fourth quarter.”
WIN THE BATTLE, WIN THE WAR
Winchester head coach John Pirani threw the Red Devils a changeup in the fourth quarter, using the Sachems’ “Navy” offense to combat Burlington’s slide package.
Both O’Connell’s game-tying goal and Mangano’s go-ahead were scored on the same offensive call. The Red Devils weren’t able to find answer defensively.
More than that, the Sachems locked down in their own end, with goaltender Alex Sharp collecting six of his 18 saves in the final quarter.
“Burlington doesn’t sneak up on anybody in the Middlesex League anymore, so we were taking them seriously all along,” Pirani said.
In closing out the Red Devils, Winchester was able to limit Burlington attacks Alex Pearsons (2 G) and J.P. Scola (1 G) in their clean looks at the cage in the second half.
They also claimed the ground ball battle in the second half.
“It’s been an Achilles heel for us this season,” O’Connell said. “We have hard workers, but sometimes we just don’t pick the ball up.”
Scooping up the win, the Sachems advance to play No. 1 seed Hingham in a quarterfinal, slated for the Harbormen’s home field Tuesday at 5 p.m.