Hopkinton caps 2nd straight perfect season with 13-6 win over Laconia in D-III boys’ lacrosse final

  • Hopkinton’s Paul Molnar looks to get by Laconia’s Cole Champoux during Saturday’s Division III boys’ lacrosse championship at Bill Ball Stadium in Exeter. Joe Marchilena / NH-HighSchoolSports.com

  • Hopkinton’s Gerry Donahue (right) tries to slow down Laconia’s Riley Roy during Saturday’s D-III boys’ lacrosse final at Bill Ball Stadium in Exeter. Joe Marchilena / NH-HighSchoolSports.com

  • Hopkinton coach Deacon Blue holds up the championship plaque after receiving it from Bill Ball, right, following the Hawks win over Laconia in Saturday’s Division III boys’ lacrosse championship at Bill Ball Stadium in Exeter. Joe Marchilena / NH-HighSchoolSports.com

Monitor staff
Sunday, June 10, 2018

EXETER – Gerry Donahue admitted there may have been a touch of nerves for the Hopkinton boys’ lacrosse team before Saturday’s Division III championship, but only a touch.

“A lot of us have been here before,” Donahue said. “(As a school) we’ve won four championships in the last two years between hockey, soccer and lacrosse, so we like to keep that seasoned veteran sort of mindset. We all want to be ready for it, excited, not nervous.”

That confidence was put to an early test when No. 2 Laconia scored the opening goal at Bill Ball Stadium, but the top-ranked Hawks aced the test. Hopkinton (17-0) responded to the opening score with a five-goal run and never looked back, rolling to a 13-6 win, back-to-back undefeated seasons and back-to-back D-III titles.

The Hawks dominated the division from wire-to-wire this spring. They won their games by an average of 9.1 goals and the closest any team came to them was five goals – Gilford in the season opener (an 8-3 Hopkinton win) and Trinity on May 16 (9-4).

“It’s tough to go 17 games in a row like that, and to do it twice in a row; 34-0 over two years, it’s quite a feat,” Hopkinton coach Deacon Blue said. “I’m really proud of the way the guys just come out every game with focus and got a ‘W’ every time.”

The Hawks lost a ton of talent, especially on offense, from the 2017 title team, which makes this season and this championship all the more remarkable.

“A lot of people doubted us going into the season, and that doubt fed us a little bit and we were all a little doubtful,” Donahue said. “But after seeing the hard work we put in during the offseason, I had no doubt in my mind that we were going to go undefeated from the first whistle of our first game. We came out firing against Gilford and it’s just been such a great experience playing with this group of guys.”

The Sachems finish their season 15-2, with both of the losses coming against Hopkinton.

“We just made too many uncharacteristic errors today all over the field, and it’s awful tough to recover from those kind of errors against a team like that,” Laconia coach Andy Paronto said. “We made some adjustments from the regular-season game against them, but sometimes it’s not about adjustments it’s about how ready are you and how are you going to execute, and we just didn’t have enough of that today.”

Laconia’s Jakob Steele (three goals) was ready from the start. The junior forced a turnover in the game’s second minute, scooping up the ground ball himself and then steaming toward the cage before ripping a shot past Alex Rousseau (eight saves) to give the Sachems a 1-0 lead just 1:23 into the game.

That lead stood for the next five minutes as the Hawks hit a post and Laconia goalie Stephen Towers (10 saves) came up with a spectacular stop. But Hopkinton tied things with 5:25 left in the first on a goal from Corey Breault (two goals, three assists) that completed a pretty passing sequence and opened the flood gates.

The Hawks scored four more goals in the next four minutes – one each from Breault, Jake Tomlinson (three goals, two assists), Paul Molnar (two goals) and Pete Sintros – and held a 5-1 lead by the end of the first quarter. Hopkinton found space and scoring opportunities in transition, something that’s not all that common in D-III.

“They push the ball, and you don’t necessarily see that a lot in Division III because we don’t have that many deep teams,” Paronoto said. “But they do a great job pushing in transition and getting those transition goals, and those are tough to get back.”

The Sachems got one back when Steele scored early in the second to make it 5-2. Laconia then controlled possession for most of the quarter, but they couldn’t solve the stingy Hopkinton defense, even though the Hawks were missing in-home defender Kiernan Byrne.

Donahue and Byrne were assigned to Laconia’s top threats – Steele and Riley Roy – but Byrne left the game early in the second with a wrist injury. He was missed, but Hopkinton showed its depth in his absence as Carter Haley, Thayer Maughan and Ryan Hughes all stepped up in his absence.

“It all starts with the ‘D’ for us,” Blue said. “They’re really tough, devoted guys. They work together, they don’t get mad ever, they’re super humble and it’s just a really great defensive core that we have.”

With the defense locking things down on one end, the Hawks got late first-half goals from Joe Sawitsky and Colby Quiet (four goals, two assists) to take a 7-3 lead into halftime.

Laconia did a good job keeping Quiet in check for the first half, but the sophomore asserted himself in the third quarter. He scored twice and dished out an assist as the Hawks built an 11-4 lead going into the fourth quarter.

“The kid is an animal,” Blue said of Quiet. “He loves the sport, loves to run, loves to push himself. He just has one speed. He’s always going.”

Quiet and Tomlinson both scored in the first 2:10 of the fourth quarter to push Hopkinton’s lead to 13-4 and effectively ice the game. Laconia got late goals from Steele and Roy, but it was too late to save what was otherwise an excellent season.

“It’s tough to say goodbye to this group of seniors with the run that they’ve had, three out of four years being in the final four,” Paronoto said. “It’s certainly tough right now, but I think when things settle down people will realize that these are some great kids that have come through our program and some great families, and I’m just really lucky to be a part of it.”

For the Hawks, it was time to celebrate another crown.

“It’s better,” Donahue said when asked to compare this title to last year’s. “I’m a senior. I just graduated. I can go home now and smoke a cigar.”

(Tim O’Sullivan can be reached at 369-3341, tosullivan@cmonitor.com or on Twitter @timosullivan20.)