RUMFORD — After a successful season a year ago, this year’s Mountain Valley boys’ soccer team has been working to create its own identity, and received a stern test Friday against St. Dom’s at Chet Bulger Field.

Aleski Pirttijoki scored two goals and Andrew Arsenault netted the game-winner on a direct kick — all in the second half — as the Falcons rallied from an early deficit to post a 3-1 win over the Saints.

Last year, the teams had battled to a 1-1 draw, the lone blemish on the Falcons’ 13-0-1 regular-season record. This year’s battle turned in to a tale of two halves, and Mountain Valley sent a message in the opening minutes of the second.

“I had walked away the with about five minutes left during halftime. I don’t know exactly what (co-captain) Curtis (Steele) said to the rest of the team, but it sure lit a fire under them,” Mountain Valley coach JT Taylor said.

Mountain Valley (3-0) scored two goals in a 44-second span to take a lead that it never would relinquish. Pirttijoki redirected a header on the short side past St. Dom’s goalie Alex Michaud just 2;49 into the frame. Fellow exchange student Sonke Hanneken had dribbled in on the right post, and Michaud stepped out to make the initial save, but the ball caromed out front. Pirrijoki promptly sent it in to the back of the net.

Mountain Valley maintained the pressure and was awarded direct kick following a St. Dom’s hand-ball violation. Arsenault squared up behind a defensive wall and curled in a kick just inside the left post.

“Overall, the second half was the difference for us (offensively),” Taylor said. “I thought we came out better and dictated the play and that’s a sign of maturity. We are still relatively young (four seniors) but the guys had received a lot of playing time last year and it has been paying off.”

St. Dom’s (0-1-1) forced the issue early and opened the scoring 3:46 in to the game. JD Hodsdon received an advancing ball on the left side and rolled it past Falcons goalie Jacob Beauchesne (13 saves). The Saints had pressured the offensive zone with Austin Roy, Kyle Welsh, Ryan Lutrzykowski and Brady Landry.

“We started out (fast),” Saints coach Marty Bressler said. “Then, I felt we had poor execution at times. We needed to pass the ball more and stay out of the midfield.”

In one sequence, Lutrzykowski had a point-blank shot at Beauchesne, but the junior goalie charged out and the ball ricocheted away.

“We wanted to use our speed and quickness,” Bressler said. “In the second half, I think they underestimated our opponent. Once they were able to (seize) the momentum, they scored again.”

The Falcons fended off a Saints’ assault and utilized a strong transition game. Pirttijoki drilled a shot from 25 yards, in to the upper right corner with 22:43 left to play.

Saints defender Gavin Bates was moved up in an effort to create scoring opportunities. Taylor lauded the play of Beauchesne and Dylan Knox who spearheaded the defense.

“We’ve got a good group of guys back there,” Taylor said. “Jacob had been not up to par in our first two games, but today I’d say he was a shining star. Knox plays beside (Dakota) Arsenault, Andrew (Arsenault) and Jesse (Pelletier) and they form a good unit. We have some guys new to soccer. Nick Newman, former football player, has made an immediate impact at fullback. He is a tough competitor and he never gives up on a play. Jon Pepin hasn’t played since he was a kid, but he is adding some depth in the mid-field with some timely tackles and speed on the edges.”