After controlling the tempo in the first half and building a solid lead, Bellarmine quickly watched it evaporate in the second half. But Connor McCleod responded to Curtis’ four unanswered goals by scoring one of his five goals on the night, and the Lions added another late goal to take a 13-11 win over the Vikings on April 24.
“All year we’ve been harping on getting good, long possessions and high percentage shots,” said Bellarmine head coach Jimmy Twining. “And we were able to do that in the first half, and that’s what allowed us to run up and get out to a fast lead. But in the second half we started feeling a little full of ourselves I think, and started trying to take those quick shots, those quick possessions.”
The Lions jumped out to a 3-1 lead in the first quarter as Garrett Stockdale slammed in two goals and McCleod added another, but the Vikings’ Jayden Todd stole a pass behind goal late in the period and put in a goal to cut it to 3-2.
The Lions then went on a run at the beginning of the second, as Jacob Bolek sent a beautiful pass to assist McCleod’s third goal and jumped to launch in a goal of his own moments later. After Curtis’ Brandon Dean sent in a rebounded shot to cut it to 5-3, Max Jones, Bolek and Daniel Call scored in succession to quickly boost the lead back to 8-3.
“We’re fortunate enough to have a really, really strong attack. This is their third year in a row as starters together,” Twining said. “The ball control, the stick control, the teamwork, the chemistry between those guys is amazing.”
“We’ve been playing together for a while,” said McCleod of his chemistry with Jones. “We just kind of know how each other work.”
After seeing the Lions take a 9-5 lead at the half and a 10-6 lead early in the third, the Vikings launched their rally. Dean skipped in a shot from 15 yards out to cut it to 10-7, and after Jones answered with a goal for Bellarmine, Alex Larson and Griffin Collins struck for the Vikings to make it 11-9 heading into the fourth.
“We’ve been battling all year long, we’ve played in three overtime games, and that’s what we do. We fight until the end,” said Curtis head coach Scott Bloom, whose team was playing without their starting goalkeeper. “We made some adjustments on offense and got away from a certain style to try to spread things out more and get their defense on their heels, and it was successful.”
Dean scored early in the fourth and added an assist on Todd’s goal that tied it at 11, but McCleod was quick to answer. The junior received a pass in front of net from Zach Fuller and slammed it in, stopping the Vikings’ momentum. Bellarmine goalkeeper Connor Jones made several of his 16 saves in the final minutes to cement the win.
“The lighting’s good for him, he’s seeing the ball well, he’s figuring out where guys are trying to shoot and he’s just being a brick wall for us,” Twining said of Jones. “It’s awesome to see.”
As for McCleod, the performance was a good way to end the local rivalry. “It was great to get it back, they’re definitely a rival of ours. I’ve got a lot of friends on there that I’ve got to beat.”