PORTLAND—A year ago, Portland’s boys’ lacrosse team looked like world-beaters in the early portion of the season, but was put in place not once, but ultimately twice by one of its fiercest rivals, the Cheverus Stags, who handed the Bulldogs their first loss and later their last.
This season, Portland is bound and determined to finish stronger than it starts which is a scary proposition considering how well the Bulldogs have played in the season’s first week.
Tuesday night at Fitzpatrick Stadium, Portland improved to 3-0 with a stunningly easy 14-2 win over the Stags. The Bulldogs controlled play from start to finish and put forth a stifling effort on both offense and defense.
“We’re coming together, looking good out there,” said Portland’s senior standout K.R. Jurgelevich, who led all scorers with four goals and two assists. “We were excited for this game since they beat us last year. We got each other pumped up in the locker room. We had it in our mind to come out and destroy them.”
Last June 11, Cheverus shocked Portland 7-6 in overtime in the Western A quarterfinals, ending the Bulldogs up-and-down season at 8-5. The Stags fell against Kennebunk in the next round and wound up 8-6.
This spring, prior to Tuesday, Portland had barely broken a sweat, dominating host Greely (14-4) and Waynflete (18-2). Cheverus opened with an 11-7 win at Deering, then fell 13-5 at home to North Yarmouth Academy Saturday.
A year ago, the Stags didn’t just beat the Bulldogs in the playoffs, they also downed their rival in the regular season, also by a 7-6 score.
This time around, Portland had its way from the get-go.
Just 34 seconds in, Jurgelevich, the U. Mass-bound senior standout, scored unassisted to put the Bulldogs ahead to say. At the 11 minute mark, senior Kyle Roberts had his turn, taking a pass from senior Tyler Sandler and beating Cheverus senior goalie Justin Sheehan to make it 2-0.
Over five minutes passed before the hosts scored again, but they were in control the whole time. With 5:50 to play in the first, Sandler set up sophomore Bronson Guimond for a goal and it was 3-0.
Sandler got in the goal scoring column two minutes later, converting a pass from Jurgelevich. With 2:34 left in the first, senior Andrew Holt got in on the fun, taking a pass from senior Sam Guimond before scoring to make it 5-0. Then, with time winding down, Roberts grabbed a loose ball and fired it home for a commanding 6-0 lead after one period.
In the opening 12 minutes, Portland had a 6-1 edge in faceoffs, a 23-6 advantage in ground balls and a stunning 17-3 bulge in shots. Cheverus turned the ball over 11 times to the Bulldogs’ eight and the only bright spot for the visitors was four nice saves from Sheehan.
Portland kept the pressure on in the second.
Just 46 seconds in, Bronson Guimond (on a gorgeous thread-the-needle pass from junior Kevin Nielsen) scored to make it 7-0. The Bulldogs wouldn’t score again for over eight minutes, but the Stags mustered absolutely no offense as they turned the ball over time and again.
With 2:48 remaining in the half, Sam Guimond ended the drought with a goal off a rebound. Thirteen seconds later, Jurgelevich raced in after a faceoff win and scored to make it 9-0. With 18 seconds to go, senior Dylan Kenney, who was stymied twice previously on highlight reel saves from Sheehan, took a pass from Sandler and scored to make it 10-0 at the break.
In the second quarter, Portland had an 18-0 advantage in shots, won all five draws and grabbed 20 ground balls to eight for the Stags. If it wasn’t for Sheehan’s heroics, the Bulldogs could have easily led 15-0.
“It was tough to critique the guys at halftime,” said Portland coach Eric Begonia. “It was our home opener. Our goal was to win every facet of the game coming out. I think we did. We’ve been playing really well.”
The second half was a formality. Goals by Kenney (from Jurgelevich) and Jurgelevich (from Nielsen) made it 12-0 in the third period and necessitated a running clock.
Cheverus finally got on the scoreboard with 5:44 to play when freshman Tyler Bishop (from classmate Mike Haas-Zanghi) scored, but 58 seconds later, senior Erik Casparius scored into an open net to make it 13-1. With 3:17 left, Bishop scored again, but just 17 seconds later, Jurgelevich struck one final time to account for the 14-2 final score.
In addition to Jurgelevich’s four goals, Bronson Guimond, Kenney and Roberts had two apiece. Sandler finished with a goal and three assists.
“Everyone’s scoring,” Jurgelevich said. “The good thing is that no one cares who scores. Everyone just wants to win. Dylan, Eric and Jason (Smith) are amazing. They’re the reason we get the ball as much as we do and score.”
Senior Nick Sterling and freshman Ryan Jurgelevich only needed to make two saves in goal as Portland’s defense smothered the Stags and on several occasions, led the offensive charge.
“It’s a fun defense to watch,” Begonia said. “With the talent we have on defense, we tell the offense to take advantage of opportunities since they’ll get twice the number of chances of a normal offense since our defense is so stifling. They got after kids. We handcuffed them. I’m pretty happy. We have so many weapons on offense, especially when the defense becomes offensive weapons.”
Portland won 18 of the 20 faceoffs, grabbed 65 ground balls to 27 for the visitors, had a mindboggling 52-8 advantage in shots and forced 42 turnovers.
Jurgelevich had 11 ground balls, Kenney grabbed 10 and Casparius had seven for the hosts. The Stags were led by sophomore Evan Jendrasko with six.
Sheehan was Cheverus’ star of the game, making 14 saves, including several from tough angles.
“Their goalie was fantastic and always has been,” Begonia said.
Tougher sledding ahead
Portland’s schedule now takes a challenging turn as the Bulldogs seek to avoid last year’s letdown. Friday, Portland hosts undefeated defending Class A champion Scarborough in a game that will go a long way in determining who will secure homefield advantage for next month’s playoffs.
“We’re really excited,” Jurgelevich said. “We’ll come out hard and with the same intensity and hopefully it goes our way.”
“Scarborough’s a big test,” Begonia added.”It’s always a big game. Hopefully it’ll be a big one here Friday night.”
After hosting Kennebunk Tuesday, Portland has back-to-back road tests at Cape Elizabeth and defending Class B state champion Yarmouth.
Don’t expect the Bulldogs to let up going forward.
“If we stay healthy and take it one step at a time, we’ll be good to go,” Begonia said. “We have good leadership with our upperclassmen group. Our chemistry is there much quicker than I expected this year. These guys excel in other sports. The underclassmen are future captains. We have great leadership everywhere.”
“I think that everyone’s head is in the right spot,” Jurgelevich added. “We’re motivated to show everyone what we really have. We won’t settle for anything but a state championship this year.”
Cheverus is back in action Saturday afternoon when it hosts Yarmouth. Monday, Massabesic comes to Ocean Avenue.
Sports Editor Michael Hoffer can be reached at email@example.com. You can also follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/mhoffer
Portland senior standout K.R. Jurgelevich had his way with the Cheverus defense Tuesday night scoring four times in leading the Bulldogs to a 14-2 win. (Jason Veilleux photo)
Portland’s defense, featuring among others, senior Igor Radosavljevic, made like difficult for Cheverus senior Ryan McQuaid and his teammates. (Jason Veilleux photo)