SAUGUS — After falling into a five-goal hole early in the first half Thursday, it looked like the Saugus boys lacrosse team was in for a long game against Northeastern Conference rival Malden.
The Sachems had other plans.
Saugus turned things around in a hurry, outscoring the Golden Tornados 12-1 to close the game on its way to a 12-6 win at Stackpole Field.
“We were chasing sticks in the first quarter and it cost us,” Saugus coach Rob Scuzzarella said. “We spotted them five and after the first quarter we brought it in and told them to settle things down. Lacrosse is a game of runs and we can’t score five goals with one shot. We just had to take it one at a time.”
Senior attackman Dom Paolo scored four goals while junior Mario Desimone also had four goals, all in the fourth quarter, to help Saugus improve to 2-0 in the NEC on the young season. Brendan McCabe added a pair of goals while Joe Cross and Ryan Pugh each scored once.
“Mario was struggling earlier (Thursday),” Scuzzarella said. “We got him the ball a couple times in great spots but he wasn’t able to finish. He got a dumb penalty in the second quarter. I pulled him aside and had a talk with him and he turned it around. He had four goals in the fourth and it was awesome.”
It didn’t take long for Malden to get out to an early lead. Corey Rufo took the opening faceoff for the Golden Tornados and didn’t hesitate, breaking to the net and scoring to get Malden out to a 1-0 lead.
Malden didn’t let up, adding three more goals in the first and opening up the second quarter with a goal from defenseman Jason Ashworth to go ahead 5-0.
Any offensive pressure the Sachems got in the first quarter was shut down by Malden goalkeeper Kevin Ivany (17 saves). To make matters worse for Saugus, senior captain Nick Aiken left the game with an injury in the first quarter.
“It’s tough,” Scuzzarella said. “A senior captain, Nick’s a big part of our team, obviously. On the flip side of that I have four guys that have been chomping at the bit to play. Some other guys will get opportunities now. It’s big shoes to fill but we played really well defensively after the first quarter.”
The Sachems finally beat Ivany midway through the second quarter when McCabe ripped a shot from the top of the box to cut the Malden lead to 5-1.
From there the Sachems started to build momentum. Chris Benoit and McCabe each assisted goals by Paolo late in the second to cut the Golden Tornados lead to 5-3 before the half.
Saugus let up an early goal to start the third quarter, but from there the Sachems held control the rest of the way. One of the biggest changes for the Sachems was their defensive pressure in the Malden zone, something Scuzzarella has put an emphasis on this season.
After forcing a few turnovers, Paolo added a late goal in the third and Desimone added another goal early in the fourth to put Saugus within one.
Midway through the fourth Paolo made a nice pass to McCabe from behind the net and the junior ripped a shot that found the back of the net to tie things up at 6-6.
Just a few minutes later, Desimone started a possession with the ball behind the Malden net and broke to the front of the crease to add a second goal and give the Sachems their first lead at 7-6.
Saugus coasted through the closing stretch. The Sachems added five more goals, including two from Desimone, to ice the 12-6 victory and complete the comeback.
“It’s only week four but I love this team,” Scuzzarella said. “This is my best group of kids in six years. I’m really excited for them and happy with the effort they gave. A five-goal hole is a lot for a high school team. Especially with newer guys. Our older guys knew we were never out of it and kept working until the final whistle.”
Saugus will hope to make it three NEC wins in a row Monday morning (10) on the road against Revere.