Astle Game-Winner with 2 Seconds Left Lifts Mounties to Final

By Stephen Sports
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UPDATE: On Wednesday morning, the MIAA website switched the Mount Greylock-Grafton sectional final to time and date TBA as of 9:15 a.m.
WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass. -- When Mount Greylock’s Thomas Astle received a pass from Owen Politis in the waning moments of Tuesday’s Central/Western Massachusetts semifinal, the junior midfielder did not know how much -- or how little -- time he had to get off a shot.
But Astle’s timing was as good as his aim as he fired a low shot past St. Bernard’s keeper Sean Kelley to break a 10-10 tie with 2 seconds left in regulation.
The Mounties went on to an 11-10 win that sends top-seeded Mount Greylock (18-1) to Friday’s the sectional title game against No. 2 Grafton (17-5), a 10-3 winner over Nipmuc on Tuesday
“The last 30 seconds were pretty hectic,” Astle said. “Obviously, you have to keep it in the box, working the ball around, and I guess when you find that little space, you have to take it.
“I honestly had no idea how much time was left. I just found that little gap, and I took it.”
The goal capped a 3-0 run for the Mounties, who played from behind much of the game and trailed, 10-8 with 4 minutes, 45 seconds left when Curtiss Vachon scored his fourth goal for the Bernardians (15-7).
“Down two goals, obviously, it’s very discouraging,” Astle said. “But we got that one goal and kind of got momentum with it and just kept riding that momentum.
“It’s just mental. You’ve got to keep your head up no matter what happens. As a team, I think we did a good job of that.”
Mount Greylock coach Brandon Asplundh never doubted his team would rally -- not even after it gave up a 6-4 half-time lead and fell behind by as many as three goals midway through the third quarter.
“I believed that we were going to win, and I know they did as well,” Asplundh said. “We came up with some big stops, and the offense did a great job. I called plays that, of course, quickly fell apart, but our guys did what they do: they outworked the opponent, got the ball back and put it in the net.”
Asplundh could have been talking generally or about the game’s final minute.
After Patrick Storie scored with 1:13 left to tie the game at 10-10, St. Bernard’s won the ensuing faceoff but turned over possession. Asplundh called timeout to set up a potential game-winner.
The Mounties worked the ball around the box and set up Sean McCormack (two goals, one assist) for an open shot. But Kelley (20 saves) made the stop. Michael Wellspeak (four goals) was on the edge of the crease but could not corral the ground ball, and it dribbled all the way out the top of the box.
Wellspeak chased it down, but it was Politis outworked a Bernardian, carried the ball back into the box and found the open man, Astle, who converted the opportunity and completed the comeback.
“That was a huge performance by [Politis],” Asplundh said of the sophomore. “Again, that was a called play that didn’t work and it quickly broke down. And they outworked the defense. They made a great play. That was a huge ground ball, and Thomas did a great job finishing it for us.”
St. Bernard’s, the underdog, scored the game’s first two goals and led most of the first half.
Mount Greylock tied it for the first time with 5:41 left in the second quarter when Astle set up Wellspeak for a man-up goal to make it 4-4.
Wellspeak scored again with 31 seconds left in the half to give Mount Greylock its first lead, and McCormack converted after a Bernardian turnover at midfield to make it 6-4 with 9 seconds left until half-time.
St. Bernard’s did not turn tail. Instead, the visitors came roaring out of half-time with five straight goals to go ahead, 9-6 when Zach Bingham converted Pat Vachon’s cross from the right wing with 4:56 left in the third quarter.
Politis set up Wellspeak, who scored while going to the ground a minute later to stop the run and make it a two-goal game heading to the fourth.
Reilly Parker scored on an assist from Storie (two goals, two assists) with 7:28 left in regulation, but Curtiss Vachon’s tally re-established the two-goal margin
McCoramack (two goals, one assist) scored with 1:47 left to make it a one-goal game, setting the stage for Storie’s tying goal 19 seconds later.
Cal Filson made 11 saves for Mount Greylock, which takes a four-game winning streak into Friday’s Central/Western Mass final.
It will be a rematch of last year’s sectional title game, which saw Grafton emerge with a 12-8 win at West Springfield High School.
Tuesday’s semi-final was a rematch as well. A year ago, the Mounties topped St. Bernard’s, 22-8, in the sectional quarter-finals.
“St. Bernard’s is just a much improved team,” Asplundh said. “We’re a better team than we were last year. And these guys gave us all we could handle. The goalie played great. Obviously, they have a dominant superstar [Curtiss Vachon], he did great. But everyone on their team did. They were a complete handful.”
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