By Tris Wykes
WHITE RIVER JUNCTION – The Hartford High boys lacrosse team scored first but not often Monday, falling 10-2 to visiting Woodstock. The Hurricanes, a Vermont Division II outfit, trailed their Division I foes by two goals at halftime before the Wasps cut their defense to ribbons following the break.
Andrew Gubbins, fresh off being named the top player in Vermont Division I hockey, took a team-high 10 shots and scored three times for Woodstock, which played its season opener.
“He’s a dominant athlete out there and can play anywhere we ask him to,” said Woodstock coach Brandon Little, whose team won 9 of 14 faceoffs with No. 5 often the man on the draw. “He’s got such a calm leadership presence on the field and he makes stuff happen. People get on his back and he can carry the team.”
Hartford’s star was goaltender Tarin Prior, who stopped 16 of the visitors’ 31 shots, several in spectacular fashion. A soccer forward and basketball point guard known for attacking the rim, the junior started in the lax cage as a freshman and enjoys the different perspective afforded him during the spring.
“Here, I’m in control of the game defensively,” said Prior, who plays summer lacrosse with some of the Wasps. “I get to see the whole field and settle our team down.”
Woodstock was the team in need of poise early. The visitors clearly possessed more sport-specific skills, but were consistently beaten on ground balls, took too long to pass and were off on the timing of their offensive cuts and defensive slides. Committing five of the seven penalties assessed before intermission was another hindrance.
“It was definitely our first time playing against other people and we weren’t used to their tendencies,” said Little, noting that Hartford made sure to deny attackmen Keaton Piconi and Field Willis the ball whenever possible. “It knocked us off our game a bit and we weren’t able to use all of our players to the best of their abilities.”
Woodstock began to prevail in the transition game after halftime, Charles Greene leading the way with the Wasps’ first goal of the half. The long-stick midfielder scooped up a loose ball near the center line and sprinted in on Prior, beating him for the first of six unanswered goals.
“We had some breakdowns in the clearing game and let up some odd-man rushes, but Tarin also made some huge saves,” said Hartford coach Grant Whiteway. “We kind of tailor our defense to him. We know he can eat up some of the outside shots and bail us out. He did that early on in this game.”
Whiteway worked at Hartford Middle School when Prior was an eighth-grader there and after watching one of his lacrosse games, the former UMass player began lobbying for the youngster to become a backstop. Why him? The youngster wasn’t afraid of the ball and showed a dogged work ethic.
“He’s got a little chip on his shoulder and he loves to compete,” Whiteway said, adding that Hurricanes goaltending coach Chris Washington, a former Hanover High star, has acted as Prior’s mentor. “He’s always willing to put in the extra reps after practice and during the off-season and it shows in games like this when he plays so well.”
Prior said that where he relied mostly on reflexes and a willingness to take shots to the body as a freshman, he’s now refined his game.
“I’m more balanced and I see the shot as it’s being set up, rather than just reacting to it,” he said. “My focus and positioning are better; little things that help a lot.
“I don’t do the traditional style of getting my hands and stick down. I drop my whole body and use my legs and my feet. I’m much quicker dropping to the ball than getting my hands down there.”
Said Little: “He was amazing. We didn’t adjust to his strength, which is stopping everything down low. At the start, we just kept shooting there.”
Hartford’s goals came from Chris Pierce and Aidan Boonyaharn. Carter Nalette and Bentley Boonyaharn earned assists. Woodstock scorers included Riley Shepherd and Parker Kuhnert, who each tallied twice, and Charles White, Willis and Piconi. Kuhnert and White each had two assists.
Woodstock hosts Mount Anthony on Wednesday while Hartford (1-1) visits Otter Valley on Thursday.
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