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Portland sophomore goalie John Sylvain is mobbed by his teammates after his save in the final seconds preserves a 6-5 home win over previously undefeated Windham Friday.
Shawn Patrick Ouellette / Press Herald photos.
More photos below.
W- 1 1 1 2- 5
P- 4 0 0 2- 6
5:29 P Jacobson (unassisted)
4:40 P Gerber (unassisted)
4;16 W McCusker (unassisted)
4:06 P Jacobson (Silva)
3:05 P Leavitt (Silva)
7:11 W Wall (Brown)
2:19 W McCusker (Brown)
10:16 P Silva (Bay)
8:50 P Bay (Silva)
5:40 W Babb (McCusker)
2:02 W Babb (unassisted)
W- Babb, McCusker 2, Wall 1
P- Jacobson 2, Bay, Gerber, Leavitt, Silva 1
W- Brown 2, McCusker 1
P- Silva 3, Bay 1
Faceoffs (Windham, 9-5)
W- Anderson 9 of 14
P- Clifford 3 of 10, Jacobson 1 of 3, Cheever 1 of 1
Shots on cage:
W (Elliott) 17
P (Sylvain) 6
PORTLAND—Class A North boys’ lacrosse is wide open this spring and two teams hoping to finish atop the heap squared off in a down-to-the-wire showdown Friday afternoon at Fitzpatrick Stadium.
In a playoff rematch, Windham hoped to continue its undefeated run, but Portland did just enough to earn some big-time Heal Points.
After a slow start, the Bulldogs scored four times in just over two minutes to seize control and led, 4-1, after one quarter, but they then endured a nearly 29-minute cold spell.
The Eagles weren’t able to truly take advantage, however, scoring just twice in that span and they still trailed, 4-3, entering the fourth period.
There, Portland junior Miki Silva scored to end the drought and senior Evan Bay added an insurance goal and that loomed huge, as Windham junior Matty Babb scored twice to again bring the Eagles within one.
Windham nearly tied it up and forced overtime, but late in regulation, Bulldogs sophomore goalie John Sylvain made a clutch save and Portland held on for a 6-5 victory.
The Bulldogs got goals from five different players and improved to 9-1 on the season, dropping the Eagles to 9-1 in the process.
“I lost a couple years off my life, but I’m glad we won,” said Portland coach Mike DiFusco. “They bring it every time we play. It’s a game we look forward to every year. They have great players and coaches. It was a good game.”
A year ago, Portland was riding high until it went to Windham in game 10 and suffered its only regular season loss. The Bulldogs then got a measure of revenge in the Class A North semifinals with a 12-6 home victory.
This spring, it’s been the Eagles passing every test with Portland staying within hailing distance in the region.
Windham opened with a 24-0 home blanking of Sanford, then defeated host Bonny Eagle (12-8), Massabesic (10-4), Westbrook (21-4) and Edward Little (16-1) before downing visiting Marshwood (19-6), host Biddeford (21-7), visiting Gardiner (12-3) and visiting Noble (17-1).
Portland also started with a shutout of visiting Sanford, 19-0, then edged visiting Westbrook, 12-10. Wins over visiting Edward Little (13-2), host Biddeford (12-8) and visiting Mt. Ararat (13-4) followed. After falling in overtime at Bonny Eagle (7-6), the Bulldogs defeated host York (8-5) and handled visiting Massabesic (15-6) and Biddeford (13-6).
The teams split two regular season meetings a year ago, then met in the playoffs as well.
Friday, on a cloudy, windy, 60 degree afternoon, the squads met for the only scheduled time this spring and the Bulldogs did just enough to hand the Eagles their first blemish.
Windham couldn’t keep possession in the first quarter and while Eagles junior goalie Ben Elliott made five saves, he couldn’t keep Portland off the board forever.
With 5:29 to play in the opening stanza, Bulldogs senior Grant Jacobson, a transfer from Windham, scored unassisted to break the ice.
Sophomore Sam Gerber scored 49 seconds later after a turnover, but with 4:16 on the clock, the Eagles got back in it, as senior Liam McCusker beat Sylvain.
Undaunted, Portland won the ensuing faceoff and Silva set up Jacobson for a goal at the 4:06 mark.
With 3:05 left in the first, Silva fed senior Nico Leavitt for a 4-1 lead, as the Bulldogs scored four times in a 2-minute, 24-second span.
And then, they went ice-cold.
Windham got a goal back with 7:11 remaining in the half, as sophomore Travis Brown set up junior Seth Wall, but despite Elliott holding Portland at bay, with a dozen saves, the Eagles could draw no closer than 4-2 at the break.
“Ben is good,” said Windham coach Pete Small. “He’s stepped up his game. He was good last year and he’s stepped up his game.”
“We did a great job first quarter, getting good possessions and finding good shots, then we got in the penalty box too many times,” DiFusco said.
The third quarter was more of the same, as the Bulldogs couldn’t score (Jacobson had goals waved off for being in the crease and warding), but senior Tyler Woolston hit the post for the visitors and Sylvain made some clutch saves of his own.
Finally, with 2:19 to go in the third, Brown set up McCusker for a shot which Sylvain couldn’t stop and Windham was only behind by a goal heading to the final stanza.
Where Portland finally rediscovered its offense.
With 10:16 left in the game, after a 28:49 drought, Silva took a pass from Bay and fired a shot past Elliott and into the net for a 5-3 lead.
“The tempo of the game changed and they scored (man-up),” Silva said. “Once we got one, the pace picked back up.”
Silva returned the favor with 8:50 left, feeding Bay for a three-goal advantage.
The Eagles weren’t done, however.
With 5:40 on the clock, Babb scored for the first time, from McCusker, and after Sylvain robbed Babb seconds later, Babb would strike again with 2:02 to go, scoring unassisted, and just like that, Windham was back within a single goal.
Sophomore Holden Anderson won the ensuing faceoff and the Eagles had chances to send the game to overtime, but Wall had a shot blocked by Portland senior defenseman Koa Farnsworth, Woolston missed wide and out of a timeout, with just 5.2 seconds on the clock, Sylvain denied a shot from McCusker and the Bulldogs were able to celebrate their 6-5 victory.
“We knew (Woolston) was going to start with the ball and we knew we just had to close off and trust our defense and our goalie,” Silva said. “(Johnny) played a heck of a game and that last save was unbelievable. He tracked the whole thing. They took (an undefeated record) away from us last year. It was time for us to take it back.”
“We knew who they wanted to shoot and our guys focused on those guys,” said DiFusco. “Johnny made a great save and our defense was great. It’s a big win for us. We’ve told the guys we’re a good team and we needed some competition for them to see it.”
“(That last play) broke down a little bit,” Small said. “We had three looks, but it didn’t materialize.”
Jacobson led a balanced offense with two goals. Bay, Gerber, Leavitt and Silva each scored once.
Silva had three assists and Bay added one.
Sylvain stopped six shots.
Jacobson and sophomore Max Cheever tied for team-honors in ground balls with four. The Bulldogs finished with a 27-24 advantage in that category.
Portland had a 30-21 edge in shots (23-11 on frame) and overcame 14 turnovers.
For Windham, Babb and McCusker each scored twice, while Wall finished with one goal.
Brown had two assists, while McCusker added one.
Elliott made 17 saves.
Anderson won nine of 14 faceoffs.
Senior Thomas Lekousi scooped up a game-high five ground balls.
The Eagles committed 21 turnovers.
“Our guys played tough right until the end,” Small said. “We had opportunities at the end. For us, it’s about possession. We didn’t have that in the first quarter. Once we maintained possession, it was a different game.”
Windham (now second behind Lewiston in the Class A North Heal Points standings) has a key test at home versus Gorham Tuesday, then closes at home against Bonny Eagle Friday of next week.
“We’ve improved every game and that’s what we want,” Small said. “We have Gorham and they’ve played hard, then we have Bonny Eagle and they have just one loss. I still think Falmouth is the team to beat. I’ll never count them out. We’ll see what happens. We just have to take care of business.”
Portland (third in Class A North) is at Westbrook Wednesday and closes at Noble next Friday.
“I think we have the potential to go further and further,” Silva said. “It comes down to who shows up on a given day. Our goal is to finish strong.”
“This was a close game we hadn’t been in, so it’s good for us going forward,” DiFusco said. “We’ll just try to get better every day in practice. We can’t think too far ahead.”
Portland junior Miki Silva defends Windham senior Liam McCusker.
Portland senior Nico Leavitt holds Windham senior Thomas Lekousi at bay.