GARDINER — It didn’t take long for Troy Haefele and the high-powered St. Dom’s offense to flex their muscles. Haefele factored in 11 of the first 12 goals as St. Dom’s dominated Gardiner, 17-7, in a battle of previously unbeaten Eastern Maine Class B lacrosse teams.
After spotting the Tigers (8-1) an early goal, Haefele assisted on three tallies in a 69-second span. The Saints (10-0) led 7-3 after one quarter, with the senior accounting for two goals and four assists. He finished with five goals and had a helping hand in seven others.
“We just played him simple,” Gardiner coach K.C. Johnson said. “I wasn’t going to face-guard him today. I’ve seen three of their matches. He’s crafty. He’s gets away too easy.”
With his team down one early and on a man advantage, Haefele found Chris Finlay (three goals) wide open in front of the Gardiner cage. Seconds later, Anthony Fagone (five goals) took a feed from Haefele and deposited a shot from 15 yards out. Then it was Haefele setting up the offense behind the home net as he hit a cutting Fagone for a 3-1 lead. The Saints capped the first quarter with Haefele finding Finlay for a one-timer on weak side door step.
“We knew it was going to be a good test today,” said Haefele. “Right off the bat, we were popping some in in the middle. That gave us confidence throughout the game.”
“We’ll switch offenses and Troy is allowed to change them,” explained St. Dom’s coach Dave Haefele, Troy's father. "We use a color system. The kids were cutting through and it worked really well.”
The Saints had their way with the Tigers as they continually found a soft area to cut through in front of Tiger goalie Cody Hickey (14 saves). Midway through the second quarter, they took to the air as Haefele lobbed a pass over the Tigers' defenders that travelled 40 yards and hit Finlay on the run for a rare breakaway goal.
The first half featured an up-tempo attack by both teams, with the Saints up 11-6 at the break. In the second half, the game became more physical and tempers began to rise on the part of both teams as they battled each other and the heat.
“We were trying to (play physical) too much,” said Johnson. “We turned it into a football game … it’s a finesse game.”
Fagone tacked on three more goals in the second half as the Saints pulled away. Whenever the Tigers mounted an offensive, Saints’ keeper Cody Rodrigue came up big. The senior made nine of his 15 saves in the half and gave up nary a rebound as he caught numerous point blank shots in the webbing of his stick.
Tyler Jamison was the only Tiger to solve Rodrigue’s wizardry as he connected for a man-advantage goal in the final minute of the third quarter. Jeff McCauslin paced the Tigers with a pair of goals while Justin Lovely and Keegan Smith each added a goal and two assists.
If the two teams meet in the regional playoffs, the Tigers will need to figure out how to slow down the Saints’ offense.
“Our offense centers around Troy,” Dave Haefele said, “but we have six kids that can catch the ball and put it in the net. We usually start off slow. We didn’t today.”