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A run to remember

Gilford boys' lacrosse team falls in Division III finals

FOREST ALDRIDGE scoops up a loose ball during championship action in Nashua June 7. Joshua Spaulding. (click for larger version)
June 14, 2011
NASHUA — Cinderella got dressed, made it to the ball and even had a few spins around the dance floor.

But when the time came for the ball to end, the pumpkin coach had disappeared.

The Gilford boys' lacrosse team, the Cinderella story of the Division III tournament, rallied back in the second half of the championship game on Tuesday, June 7, in Nashua, but in the end, the Hopkinton Hawks had just enough of a lead to hold on for the 8-6 win.

The Golden Eagles finished the regular season at 8-6 and were the 10th seed in the tournament. They went on the road to beat seventh-seeded Kingswood in the opening round and then second-seeded Derryfield in the second round. They knocked off sixth-seeded Pelham in the semifinals, setting up the date with Hopkinton, themselves winners over top-seeded and undefeated Kearsarge in the finals at Stellos Stadium.

Things got off on the wrong foot for the Golden Eagles, who saw Hopkinton score three times in the opening quarter and five times before halftime, while Gilford netted just one goal in the first 24 minutes.

"I don't know whether it was jitters or what," coach Dan Kallmerten said. "We just played poorly that first half."

To his kids' credit, the Golden Eagles made a game of it in the second half, but by then the damage had been done.

"They didn't give up and came back strong in the second half," Kallmarten said. "But you have to give it to Hopkinton, they were the better team tonight."

The Hawks scored just 17 seconds into the title game to take an early lead and despite a nice steal from Guy Rice and a great bid from Tre Galligan, Gilford couldn't even the score and the Hawks doubled their lead with 8:22 to go in the first quarter.

Hopkinton continued on the attack, forcing Gilford goalie Norm Harris to make a number of huge saves in front of the net. The Hawks finally broke through Harris' stonewall with just under three minutes to play, upping the lead to 3-0.

Gilford finally showed a bit of life on the offensive end, as Brendon Murphy rifled home a shot with 2:27 to go in the quarter to give Gilford a pulse. The quarter ended with the Hawks clinging to the 3-1 lead.

Hopkinton needed just 1:33 of play in the second quarter to slip another goal in, but Gilford countered with some solid offensive looks, as Rice fed Alec Boucher, Murphy had a shot stopped and Andy Upton had a long shot turned away.

However, the Golden Eagles couldn't hold back the Hawks too much longer, as they scored with 7:44 to go in the half to up the lead to 5-1.

Gilford continued to pressure the net, with Murphy and Nick Gagliardi getting good bids. Galligan also sent a shot that was stopped on the power play.

Harris continued to shine in net and Upton, Forest Aldridge, Murphy and Boucher all had bids, but the Hopkinton keeper held tight.

Harris made a big save with 15 seconds on the clock, sending the game to halftime with Gilford down 5-1.

The Golden Eagles regrouped at halftime and Upton fired home a shot just 41 second into the second half to cut the lead to 5-2.

Hopkinton tried to answer, but the Gilford defense came up with some strong plays and Harris turned away a couple of solid bids.

With 8:32 to play in the third, the Eagles got a penalty, but a very strong penalty kill led to an offensive burst after the shorthanded situation ended and Gagliardi fired a shot past the Hopkinton keeper with 7:20 to go to cut the lead to 5-3.

Hopkinton upped the lead to 6-3 with 4:23 to go and then pushed it to 7-3 with a goal with 4.1 seconds on the clock, closing out the third with a 7-3 lead.

Gilford didn't hang their heads, as Murphy, Upton, Matt Dean and company fired early shots on the net and with 9:10 to go in the game, Murphy hit Gagliardi with a pass and the senior fired it home to make it 7-4.

With 7:50 to go, Christian St. Cyr came off the bench and drilled home a shot to cut the lead form 7-5. Gagliardi got the assist on the tally.

Harris continued to keep the Hawks at bay, but with 4:43 to go, they got one by for an 8-5 lead.

Gilford continued to press, however, as Galligan fired one home with 3:11 to go to bring the Eagles within two. They kept pressuring, with Upton and Gagliardi getting great looks. Hopkinton's keeper also made a spectacular kick save on a bid off the stick of Galligan.

Gilford did everything in its power to find the net again, but came up short and the Hawks had the 8-6 win and the Division III title.

"We had a lot of trouble completing passes and doing basic things," Kallmarten said of his team's first-half struggles. "We made adjustments at halftime and tried to emphasize moving the ball and utilizing their teammates."

"We just didn't want to lose that game," said Upton. "We went out after the half and played as hard as we could. We knew we had the skill and ability to score more."

The Eagle senior also praised Hopkinton for a good game.

"They played great, they had a couple of great shooters," he said. "And their defense blocked shots. We were close. It's tough to lose, but they're a great team to lose to."

Both the senior star and his coach couldn't complain about the team's season.

"Even if we didn't win this game, it was a great playoff run," Upton said. "It was nice to get this far."

"We are in no way disappointed," Kallmarten said. "We've come a long way with this program the last eight years.

"The kids are proud of the accomplishment, but disappointed we came up short," he continued. "But they came together in the playoffs and knocked off some top teams."

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Varney Smith
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