AUBURN — For the second consecutive game, St. Dom’s had a hard time finding the back of the net. For the second time in three outings, Oak Hill played tough against a quality opponent.
But while the Raiders’ fortunes remained unfortunately unchanged from their previous four contests this season, the Saints survived several misses, blocks, saves and “too many” penalties to post their fifth win in as many tries, earning an 8-3 victory over Oak Hill on Thursday.
“Without any competition, you don’t better yourself,” St. Dom’s attack Matt Adams said. “It helps to have closer games like this. It helps us know where we can better ourselves, where we can learn from our mistakes.”
“Our guys played with passion in the second half,” Oak Hill coach Steve Cobb said. “What was unfortunate is that we didn’t show up to play from the beginning of the game.”
One St. Dom’s player who didn’t have any issues finding the back of the cage was Adams. The sniper scored four times for the Saints (5-0), three times on feeds from Troy Haefele, and keeper Cody Rodrigue turned back 12 shots to earn the victory.
“We just have to keep moving,” Adams said. “When we keep moving, we get open and we find the open passes.”
But while Adams was effective on the attack, undisciplined play from St. Dom’s forced the team’s man-down defense to play more often than it would have liked. That unit stepped strongly into the spotlight, stuffing Oak Hill on all 10 opportunities it had with an extra player.
“I think what that shows is that the team is trying harder when we’re a man down,” St. Dom’s coach Dave Haefele said. “That’s what I tried to get across to them afterward is, ‘Why don’t you communicate like that all the time?’ But overall, I thought we had a pretty good effort today.”
“We need to capitalize better on penalties. We need to adjust our man-up,” Cobb said. “We need to score more.”
After the teams traded early shots, the Saints found the board first, ironically enough while playing a man down. A long clearing attempt found Adams at the top of the box, and the speedy attack went in alone on Oak Hill keeper Will Aronson and scored the game’s first goal.
Anthony Fagone added another for the Saints 2:56 later, and Adams netted his second of the contest with 38 seconds remaining in the opening quarter to stake the home squad to a 3-0 advantage.
“We were flat; we came out flat,” Cobb said. “I think the players, we looked at their record, we looked at who they’d played and we thought, ‘We’re beat already.’ Then when we realized we could roll with these guys, we started to gain some momentum. We made a couple of plays and we started doing much better.”
More than half of the second frame went by without any scoring until Haefele drew three defenders on a drive and found Adams alone for his third of the game. Trevor Sampson responded for the Raiders a minute later to break Rodrigue’s shutout bid, but Grant Carrier put St. Dom’s back in front by four with 1:49 to play in the first half after a rush by long-stick midfielder Tom Applegate up the left side.
St. Dom’s started to break the game open in the third as Adams and Haefele each scored. But Sampson netted his second at the tail end of the third and Jon Averill scored early in the fourth to cut the Raiders’ deficit to four.
“They were face-guarding Troy and they were playing pretty tight defense,” Adams said.
Chris Finlay capped the scoring for the Saints on an unassisted tally with 7:40 to play in regulation.