By Tris Wykes

Copyright 2021 Octopus Athletics

WHITE RIVER JUNCTION – The Hartford High boys soccer team opened its season last weekend with a five-goal loss at powerful Milton, a side featuring seven fourth-year starters and 15 seniors. The Hurricanes? They feature one senior and two starters from last season’s squad.

“Luckily, they’re young enough that they shook it off quickly and pretty much forgot about it,” said Hartford coach Kevin Guilbault, whose team lost 12 seniors to graduation last spring. 

Hartford High’s Sam Peckinpaugh (22) watches the ball roll wide along with Lake Region’s Grant LaClair (6), Colby Lafleur (8) and goaltender Lincoln Racine. Copyright Octopus Athletics. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to ctwykes@aol.com.

“Game one was kind of what I expected, but we continued to have good practices and we switched the lineup around a bit and became more solid in the back.”

Solid enough that the Hurricanes shut out visiting Lake Region, 2-0, Wednesday during their second contest. Sophomore Gabe Guillette scored in the fifth minute and freshman Nolan Morlock tallied with 10 minutes remaining. 

Goalkeeper Jacob Singelais, one of four Windsor High students on the home roster, earned the shutout with a handful of saves, but one of them midway through the second half was a beauty featuring a full-out dive to the senior’s right to stop a shot headed inside the post.

“If you’re on the Hartford team, then you’re a Hartford kid,” Guilbault said, noting the Hurricanes have long enjoyed the services of students from Hartland and Cornish. “They fit right in and if you didn’t know the Windsor kids were on the team, you wouldn’t know.”

Hartford High’s Sam Peckinpaugh and Lake Region’s Colby Lafleur battle in mid-air. Copyright Octopus Athletics. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to ctwykes@aol.com.

Windsor didn’t have enough players to field a team this fall and seven came over to Hartford. Two have left the Hurricanes and one is on their junior varsity. Guilbault said it happened so quickly that he didn’t have time to address the matter with his Hartford players alone. The Yellowjackets showed up one day and the coach spoke to all the players as a unified whole.

“It was ‘Here you go, everybody, meet each other’,” Guilbault said. “But our kids are very inclusive and the Windsor guys were easy to incorporate.”

Another Windsor player, senior Adam Dufour, earned his coach’s praise Wednesday for being willing to move from midfielder to defender after Saturday’s rough debut. The Hurricanes faced a Lake Region team playing its opener and with only a few substitutes, but the Rangers nonetheless took the play to the hosts after halftime.

Hartford held on thanks to more cohesive play than in its opener.

“It’s fun to watch the group come together after such a frustrating start,” Guilbault said. “We strung three, four, five passes together, which we only did a few times against Milton. Guys were making runs for each other and had a better idea of what we want to do offensively. That all comes out of being solid on defense.”

Hartford High’s Nolan Morlock races past Lake Region’s Colby Lafleur (8). Copyright Octopus Athletics. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to ctwykes@aol.com.

Wednesday’s first goal came after McMahon, playing wing, raced to keep a loose ball inbounds on the left side before beating defender Beren Lovejoy to the outside and turning the corner towards freshman goalkeeper Lincoln Racine. 

Approaching alone the end line, McMahon blasted a shot off the sprawling netminder’s hands at the near post and Guillette popped the rebound under the crossbar. McMahon, a junior, also assisted on the second goal.

Hartford hosts Fair Haven on Friday.

Notes: Guilbault said he expects Hartford will take in Windsor players for the next couple of seasons at least. He said Yellowjackets coach Steven Mulloy is working at the town’s youth level, attempting to increase that program’s numbers in hopes of resurrecting high school play… Milton was 8-0 during the 2020 regular season and reached the playoff finals while Lake Region was 0-7-2 and didn’t participate in the postseason. Hartford was 3-5-1 and exited in the playoffs’ first round… Lake Region is coached by a woman, Darcy Leblanc, and did not have any assistant coaches at Wednesday’s game.

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Hartford High’s Gabe Guillette tangles with Lake Region’s Colby Lafleur (8). Copyright Octopus Athletics. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to ctwykes@aol.com.