SKILLMAN — With most of the attention turned to the offense and the main goal scorers, sometimes the faceoff men in lacrosse get overlooked.
But it’s those specialists that do the dirty work that can swing a game one way or another and Saturday afternoon the Hunterdon Central High School boys lacrosse team used its specialist to turn the tables.
Senior Stephen Barr won 10 of 18 faceoffs and scored his fourth career goal to boost the Red Devils past pesky Montgomery, 10-8.
Barr was one of seven goal scorers for the Red Devils (4-4) and he said that chipping in on offense while dominating the faceoff was rewarding for him.
“It’s great. I don’t get goals often, but it was fun,” Barr said. “I enjoyed being able to get a goal today. And in the x, I just practice a lot of different moves, so I can adapt to what the opponent is doing.”
Tim Cuccio netted a three goals and Ben Coakley added two goals and two assists to lead the Hunterdon Central attack, which at times was thwarted by Montgomery goalie Mike Yanovitch.
“We didn’t finish all that well; their goalie made some nice saves and we hit him with a lot of shots,” Hunterdon Central coach Mike Vergalito said. “So we got ourselves a lot of good looks and there are a lot of positives of what we did today.”
One of the main positives on the day was the performance of Barr, who was part of a flurry at the end of the first quarter to give Hunterdon Central the lead for good. The teams had played almost the entire opening stanza at a standstill, until the final minute when there were three goals scored.
Evan Tracey gave Montgomery (1-8) a 2-1 lead with 45 seconds left in the quarter, but Barr tied it just seven seconds later, winning a faceoff and racing downfield for the goal. Coakley beat the buzzer and scored with one second remaining to give Hunterdon Central a 3-2 advantage that they wouldn’t relinquish for the remainder of the game.
But it wasn’t all positive for the Red Devils, who drew the ire of Vergalito and his staff on multiple occasions, with passes going awry and lapses on defense that allowed Montgomery to hang around.
“The frustrating part, for me, is that we keep making the same mistakes over and over again,” Vergalito said. “We have a lot of young guys on this team, but if we want to get somewhere at the end of the season, at some point we’re going to need to fix some of this stuff. Our plate is full in terms of things to do, so we just need to get the guys to play smarter and be more efficient.”
The Cougars closed the gap on two different occasions in the middle stanzas, with Cam Garinger netting a goal just before the half to make it 5-4 and Wyatt Colangelo connecting with just two seconds left in the third quarter to cut the lead to 8-6.
Montgomery ended up with goals inside of the final minute of all four quarters, with three of those goals coming inside of 10 seconds in each stanza. Garinger and Matt Stagnitta each netted a pair for the Cougars and Yanovitch finished with 11 saves in net.
But down the stretch, when they needed possession to further cut into the lead, Barr was there as the answer, thwarting every chance at the x.
“Barr has been the most consistent part of this team as far as a guy that constantly comes up with faceoffs, groundballs, he clears it for us really well,” Vergalito said. “He’s an outstanding leader and an outstanding player and he’s tough as nails.”