Tasked with shutting down one of the area’s top offensive threats, Bullis junior defender Nick Fields slid, shoved and hounded St. Stephen’s/St. Agnes senior Brent Armstrong for nearly all of Tuesday’s Interstate Athletic Conference regular season finale in Potomac.
But with the No. 2 Bulldogs clinging to a one-goal lead in the game’s final seconds, Armstrong finally escaped Fields’s reach. Armstrong instantly broke toward the goal, but as he pulled back his stick to fire a would-be game-tying goal, Bullis junior Max Nordeen slid into his path, changing his run and forcing Armstrong’s shot to go astray as Bullis held on for a wild 7-6 victory to seal the program’s first unbeaten regular season run through the IAC.
“Brent is a very talented player, and Nick was able to take his strength tonight,” Nordeen said. “But [on the last play] Brent came down the side, and with so little time left, I knew he was gonna go to the goal. I just had to go early and that’s what I did — I got a stick on him and the shot went wide.”
Less than 24 hours after a frustrating loss at Potomac School, the sixth-ranked Saints (12-5, 2-3 IAC) came out fired up in the first quarter.
Sophomore Nate Archer and junior Seth Miller scored in quick succession of nearly identical rolls from behind the net to give St. Stephen’s/St. Agnes a 2-1 lead midway through the period. Grant Swaney’s tally just before the whistle added to the advantage as turnovers plagued the Bulldogs (13-3, 5-0) in their offensive end.
The Bulldogs tied the game midway through the second quarter on goals from Matt Opshal and Kyle Nemeroff, and after Swaney’s second goal pushed the Saints back in front, Bullis senior and Brown recruit Kylor Bellistri gave his team a much-needed jolt with two quick goals. The first was a side-armed rocket from 15 yards away, and the second a near instant replay.
“We were fighting, we were grinding, but we knew we had to be more efficient on offense,” Bellistri said. “I got a couple open shots during that stretch and it really helped our team.”
But once again the Saints responded as Miller beat the defense around the post once more and Drew Altizer gave St. Stephen’s/St. Agnes a 6-5 edge heading into the fourth quarter.
Opshal’s second goal on Mitchell Goldberg’s third assist of the night knotted the score midway through the fourth and after failing to capitalize on a man-up opportunity, Bellistri found a seam in the defense and fired home the go-ahead goal with just under five minutes remaining.
But on a night that saw both teams commit numerous turnovers at inopportune times, the Saints used a trio of late Bullis miscues to provide a final scare. Fortunately for the Bulldogs, junior goalie Brandon Burke was up to the task, making a pair of critical stops on the doorstep before Nordeen’s last stand.
Bellistri finished with three goals and Opshal added two, and Joe Stuckey dominated the face-off all night to help the Bulldogs turn the tide.
“It’s a good feeling,” Bellistri said of the team’s undefeated mark in the IAC, “but it’s only going to be a good feeling if we win the championship. This gives us a boost going into the playoffs, but our goal is to win a championship.”