by Tom Utescher
While the Inter-Ac lacrosse teams from west of the Schuylkill contend for top honors in the league beneath a national spotlight, on this side of the river the boys are battling just as ferociously for the highest position they can achieve.
In the first round of Inter-Ac games, Germantown Academy lost 2-3 to Penn Charter in regulation and 8-9 to Springside Chestnut Hill in overtime, but last Tuesday at PC the Patriots broke through for their first league victory, edging the Quakers, 6-5.
For visiting GA, junior Jim McAfee and sophomore Joel Trucksess each scored twice to furnish the Pats with a 4-1 halftime lead over Charter, whose lone marker came from sophomore Luke Stansfield. As the second half unfolded, two goals by PC freshman Blake Target were answered by GA senior Garrett Trucksess and sophomore Leroy Moser, then Quakers junior Cody Sweeney struck twice in the final minute of the third period.
That stuck the 6-5 final on the scoreboard, as neither team could find the net during the fourth quarter. Germantown’s senior goalie, Ian Davies (Roanoke College), finished with nine saves in the victory, while PC got eight stops from junior Sean McKee.
On the same afternoon, SCH fell to undefeated national number one Haverford School, setting up a complex scenario for the final regular season games on Friday. A loss by the Blue Devils to the Patriots and an Episcopal Academy victory over Charter would have GA, PC, and SCH finishing in a three-way tie for fourth place with records of 2-8. The Blue Devils and Quakers had already split in their home/away series.
So what did it take for the Patriots to progress from very close league losses to their first Inter-Ac victory?
“There’s no magic bullet,” pointed out head coach Brian Grady. “You’ve got to keep grinding away, focusing on the fundamentals and the little things. We’ve been able to manufacture opportunities on offense, but our scoring percentage has not been great. Early in today’s game we were able to throw a few balls in, and that certainly helped our confidence.”
In this instance, scoring “early” meant just 19 seconds into the game, as GA gathered the ball from the face-off and had Joel Trucksess charge in for a transition goal. Charter responded less than a minute later, with Stansfield whipping one in from the left side to tie the match.
The visitors would spend more time with the ball than their hosts, though, and when McAfee netted his first goal of the day with 2:46 to go in the opening round, Germantown had the lead for good. Davies kept the 2-1 count on the board until the end of the first frame, stopping a shot by Quakers junior Drew Gallant with a little under two minutes remaining.
The GA keeper also quashed an attempt by senior Nile Hodges a few minutes into the second stanza.
“He was really good at his feet, so we tried to get our guys to shoot up top more,” remarked PC skipper Pat McDonough.
Instead, it was the Patriots who netted the next goal, assuming a 3-1 advantage on McAfee’s second strike of the day. That came with just under eight minutes left in the first half, and after GA regained possession off the face-off, the Pats had senior James Diver circle out from behind the cage to fire. He was stoned by Charter’s McKee and the Quakers took off for the other end, but a promising transition sequence ended with a denial by Davies.
From a few feet off the crease on the left, Joel Trucksess chalked up his second goal with 4:24 now remaining before the intermission. The half ended at 4-1 after McKee repulsed a point-blank shot by Garrett Trucksess.
“They capitalized on most of their offensive opportunities,” the Quakers’ McDonough observed. “They got up by a couple goals and they sat in that zone for a little bit. We had some chances before halftime to make it a closer game than it was, but we made some poor decisions and their goalie made some good saves.”
A crosschecking penalty that had been called with 11 ticks to go in the half left GA one man short for most of the opening minute of the third quarter. The penalized player was just returning to the fray when Target scored for PC off an assist from Sweeney.
At the far end of the field, Charter’s McKee stopped one ball launched by Garrett Trucksess, but the Germantown senior found the net on his next try, making it 5-2 with just over five minutes gone. A little later, the Patriots found themselves one man short again, due to a double slashing penalty with 3:29 left in the third round. PC cashed in just 15 seconds later, with Sweeney once more assisting his freshman teammate, Target.
GA levered the lead back out to three goals with 2:39 on the ticker; Moser scored this one off a feed from junior Matt Ho. On the scoring play a slashing call was made against Penn Charter, but the Quakers killed this penalty to keep the count at 6-3.
Things really began to get interesting in the final minute of the period. From out on the left wing, PC’s Stansfield passed the ball in to Sweeney on the same side, and the junior freed himself for a successful shot with 57 seconds to go. The Quakers dashed down off of the subsequent face-off, and Sweeney scored from a similar spot for his second marker in a 10-second span. Eighth-grader Gavin Tygh had brought the ball down from the face-off.
With the home team now just one goal behind, 6-5, the scene was set for a fourth quarter that featured a good deal of drama, but no further scoring. Over the first four minutes, GA’s Garrett Trucksess created two quality scoring chances for himself, but while taking the first shot his stick was jogged by PC senior Frank McGlinchey, and his second ball was deflected by another 12th-grader, Christian Teuber.
PC survived a brief delay-of-game penalty in the middle of the period. Following a time-out with 4:45 left to play, the Patriots lost two chances to pad their lead. On shot simply missed wide to the right, and another was foiled by Charter’s McKee.
After McKee’s counterpart, Davies, turned aside a 15-yard bounce shot by PC’s Gallant with 90 seconds to go, Germantown made a short foray down on offense, but as the game entered the final minute, Charter was back on attack and seeking the equalizer.
With around 48 ticks left, Davies stopped a shot from a Quakers player right on the crease, so close that it was difficult for him to shoot around the GA keeper. Eventually, the hosts called time-out with 29 seconds remaining.
McDonough related, “We had a zone [defense] play and a man play set up. They came out in man and we tried to run guys off some picks.”
GA’s Grady said that in the Patriots’ huddle, “We told everybody off-the- ball to be ready to slide if the guy with the ball beats his defender, and also to be ready to cover the passing lanes so that they couldn’t skip the ball through and find somebody open.”
With 15 seconds left Charter sent a shot wide of the right post, but got the ball back behind the goal. Target brought it out front again on the left, but a fellow freshman, GA’s Ben Garcia, kept him at bay, getting under his stick so that the PC player could not lower his shoulder and drive. Time finally ran out on the Quakers.
Grady praised the defensive efforts of Davies and two experienced defensemen, senior Anthony Bozzelli and junior Nick D’Ambrosio. He’s also been pleased with the way that sophomores Pat McGettigan and Tripp Gundlach have progressed this season.
“Our whole team is a pretty good mixture of experienced players and younger guys who’ve been earning a lot of playing time,” Grady said.
McDonough’s Penn Charter squad had a chance to send the contest into overtime in the closing seconds, but as he noted, “The game wasn’t really won or lost there. We didn’t get it done on offense earlier in the game, and we put ourselves in that situation. GA certainly came to play today, and they deserved to win.”
UPDATE: GA, PC and SCH did end up in a three-way tie for fourth place in the league, as Germantown posted a 10-6 victory over visiting Springside Chestnut Hill on Friday afternoon. Figuring in Penn Charter’s 10-4 loss under the lights at Episcopal that evening, the result was 2-8 Inter-Ac records all ‘round for the Patriots, Quakers, and Blue Devils.