YARMOUTH – Brent Rickett put the Panthers out front of the visiting Falcons for the final time with just 2:20 remaining on Thursday afternoon, April 13. Rickett’s fifth notch of the day secured a hard-fought W for North Yarmouth Academy: The Panthers trailed early and they trailed again late, and in between they mostly led – but never by more than a goal or two. 11-10 the final.
NYA thus opens their season with an auspicious homefield victory; they don’t play again until the 25th, when they travel to Yarmouth.
Freeporter Connor Dostie led his boys, matching Rickett’s five with five of his own, not to mention three assists. Dostie effectively kept the Falcons on pace with the Panthers through much of the game.
Dostie expressed surprise and positivity. “I didn’t think we could play to their level,” he said. “We weren’t thinking that. We’ve been in the gym all preseason, and I think it’s important to get some practice outside. We’ve only had a couple field times, at Morse this (past) weekend.”
Freeport, now 0-1, travels to Waynflete on the 26th. If a loss can be auspicious, the Falcons’ just might have been: They didn’t look half bad for a team at the start of its schedule, and they assuredly played hard.
Freeport head coach Geoff Arris observed as much, eagerly rattling off the names of Falcons who contributed in a big way. “We’re outside for the first time yet, for a real game,” Arris said. “It’s Garrison Thompson’s first time in a real game playing goalie, and he stood on his head for us. Connor definitely stood out for us; Nate Thomas was running the ball like an animal. Evan Owen. Reid (Poissonnier) is actually an attackman, (but he was) playing close d, dominating on the defense.”
“Everyone went out and did their jobs really, really well.” Arris said. “Now we just need to fine-tune that. Play outside, together, and not rush.”
The Falcons took a 2-1 lead through the first, Dostie adding one and Kaleb Barrett another while Rickett managed the Panthers’ only point. NYA held Freeport scoreless in the second, however, allowing themselves to sneak ahead 4-2 on a trio of points, including one – a pretty turn-and-fire by Jeremy Thelven – with just 33 seconds remaining before the break.
The tension of the low-scoring first two quarters snapped in the third, when the teams piled up 10 goals between them –five each, to be specific. Freeporter Eriksen Shea tallied the first, just 30 seconds in, on a hard blast through traffic and up the middle. Rickett answered two and half minutes later, but Dostie responded in turn shortly thereafter. 5-4.
Dostie scored again less than a minute later, circling around to low on the right side of Panthers netminder William Tagte and firing across. 24 seconds after that, however, NYA’s Jack Labbe slowballed a bounce shot 20 feet up the middle, over Thompson’s shoulder and in.
Dostie kept his boys neck-and-neck at 6-6 with his fourth of the day, but then the Panthers scooted ahead on two quick, one by Sam Johnson and another by Thelven. Thelven’s was particularly pretty: After Panther Ryan Baker rushed the ball up the center of the field and dished to teammate Kurt Heywood on the left side of the Falcons’ cage, Heywood quick-passed across to Thelven on the right and Thelven one-timed the shot home.
The squads closed the third with one more each. Evan Owen added a Freeport strike to make it 8-7, but Rickett answered a minute or so later to maintain a two-goal advantage for his boys.
“We changed our offensive set; we just wanted to possess the ball a little bit more,” said Arris, asked what adjustments Freeport made at halftime that allowed them to score their share of the quarter’s goals. “In the second, when we did have it on offense, we just ran down and shot, or ran down, made one pass and shot. So we wanted to have a little bit more patience, to save our legs on defense and midfield, and work the ball around, and it was paying off.”
Dostie earned his fifth at 9:36 of the last quarter; 28 seconds on, a mishmash of penalties ultimately resulted in the Falcons going man-up, a situation Jacob Gromley capitalized on. Gromley’s goal, from the outside-left, tied things at 9-9. And in fact, Gormley soon scored again – this one coming on a Dostie feed from behind the NYA net. 10-9, Freeport.
Dostie remarked on the key to keeping pace with the Panthers and eventually overtaking them. “Just believing in ourselves; we know we can play the game how we can play it,” he said.
But that’s where the Falcons’ offense dried up. No doubt fatigued – their bench is very short this year – Freeport found themselves under heavy Panthers’ pressure as the final five minutes arrived. When Deven Hannan pulled a penalty at 4:17, putting the Falcons man-down, NYA needed little time to convert: Thelven brought the Panthers even again just five seconds later.
“We don’t have fresh legs, so it’s kind of hard to manage the tiredness,” Dostie said, asked how the Falcons dealt with their short bench. “It’s important to value the ball, and slow it down on offense, and give the guys a breather.”
In the waning minutes, the game seemed to belong to anybody; in the end, however, it was Rickett who wrung the last point from the afternoon. Freeport did – to their great credit – generate a couple more opportunities before the buzzer tolled, but NYA’s defensive pressure kept the Falcons from getting what they needed.
Adam Birt can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @CurrentSportsME.
Kurt Heywood plows upfield with the ball for NYA.
Freeporter Kaleb Barrett unwinds into a shot up the middle.
Freeporter Evan Owen gets rid of the ball under pressure.
Eriksean Shea helpfully swats a fly off an NYA opponent’s helmet.
Cris Paradis tracks the action.
Brent Rickett’s fellow Panthers congratulate him after his umpteenth goal on Thursday.
Panther Brent Rickett scored five times for his boys – including on this shot – in their 11-10 win over Freeport on Thursday.
Defending for the Falcons, Andrew St. John tracks an NYA attacker around the back of the Freeport net.
Ryan Baker whips the ball toward the Freeport net in NYA’s season-opening home victory over the Falcons on Thursday.