NASHUA -- In the most highly anticipated regular-season boys’ lacrosse game in the state this spring, Bishop Guertin built an early cushion and held off a comeback attempt from Pinkerton Academy of Derry to earn a 12-11 victory Tuesday night at Stellos Stadium.
The contest was a rematch of last season’s Division I championship game, which the Astros won by an 11-9 score. Pinkerton and the Cardinals have met in seven of the past eight Division I championship games. Bishop Guertin won five of those meetings (2011, 2013, 2014, 2016, 2017) while the Astros took two (2015, 2018).
The two programs have won a combined 20 state championships since the NHIAA began holding a boys’ lacrosse postseason tournament in 1994.
Bishop Guertin (3-1) had a seven-goal lead in the first half but the Astros (2-2) rallied over the final three quarters and pulled within a goal with 14.1 seconds left on junior Mason Drouin’s goal.
Pinkerton’s Gennaro Marra won the ensuing faceoff -- his 17th of the game -- but the Astros could not test Cardinals goalie James Heitmiller (12 saves) with a shot on goal after a timeout. Pinkerton turned the ball over after an off-the-mark shot with 4.9 seconds remaining.
“We got off on a slow start and didn’t take advantage of all the faceoff wins that we had but I’m proud of the fact that we didn’t let down,” Astros coach Brian O’Reilly said. “We have veteran players. They understand lacrosse. Multiple goals can be made up quickly.”
The Cardinals scored the game’s first five goals over the opening 4:23 of the contest on tallies from Dawson Clark, Sean Cameron, Chris Kiely, Ben Abladian and Joey Lupo.
Marra gave Pinkerton a 5-2 edge on faceoffs in the opening frame but the Cardinals created their offense with quick possessions in transition off ground balls and key saves from Heitmiller.
“Pinkerton came out a little bit uncharacteristically with turning the ball over,” Bishop Guertin coach Chris Cameron said. “I don’t know what it was. But we were making saves and we were turning our saves into transition and that’s when we’re at our best.”
Bishop Guertin’s opening five-goal outburst gave it a 6-1 lead after the first quarter and helped it take a 9-4 advantage into halftime.
Sean Cameron’s third goal of the game built an 8-1 Cardinals lead with 6:30 left in the half before the Astros came alive and went on a 6-2 run over the second and third quarters.
Two goals from Drouin’s younger brother, Hunter, a sophomore, and another from Connor McCormack fueled the Astros’ 3-1 second-quarter run. Astros goalie Jack Sweeney made six saves and Marra won four faceoffs in the second quarter to help Pinkerton create its first taste of momentum.
“For basically the whole second quarter, we really didn’t have the ball all that much,” Chris Cameron said.
Mason Drouin and Hunter Drouin created the Astros’ 3-0 third-quarter run that pulled their team within three goals. Hunter scored twice and Mason netted one to cut Bishop Guertin’s lead to 10-7.
“That’s what they do,” O’Reilly said of the Drouin brothers. “They’re complementary players. Mason’s got the power. Hunter’s a little bit sneakier and smaller but they’re good players -- really good players.”
Lupo notched his second goal of the game with 4:36 left in the third quarter to create an 11-7 Cardinals cushion entering the final frame.
Sean Cameron, a junior who is committed to Harvard, had a team-high four goals and Clark had a hat trick for Bishop Guertin.
Hunter Drouin finished with four goals while Mason Drouin had a hat trick for the Astros. McCormack scored twice while Sweeney and Andrew Hassler combined for seven saves for Pinkerton.
While Chris Cameron was happy to see his Cardinals earn the win, he noted that the winner of the regular-season meeting between these two lost the rematch in the Division I title game each of the past four seasons.
“We can’t be done,” Chris Cameron said. “We have to continue to get better and this team is definitely going to get better.”