FORT COVINGTON — Tim Cook sat in his social studies/U.S. history class earlier in the week.
The Salmon River boys soccer head coach looked over and pointed at Shamrocks’ goalkeeper Ethan Moulton, before their first round of Class B playoff action — a postseason rematch against the Canton Golden Bears from 2019.
“You remember playing Canton two years ago,” Cook said. “And I know you want to beat ‘em.”
Without saying much of a word, Moulton looked down at the floor, and nodded. The senior, two seasons ago, was playing between the posts for the Shamrocks in his first varsity game, as a sophomore, against the Bears, in those playoffs. Salmon River lost that game to Canton, two seasons ago, 2-0, on their home field.
On Wednesday, behind four saves from Moulton, the Shamrocks got their playoff revenge, on their home field, knocking the Golden Bears out of the tournament with a 3-2 win.
“(As a) sophomore, it was my first varsity game, so I was wicked nervous,” Moulton said. “It was my first game up from JV so, I didn’t have a lot of chemistry playing with those guys ... It’s different now ... we’ve been playing together all year — I’ve playing with these guys since we were little kids. There’s more chemistry. I know what these guys are going to do. I can read them (and) I’m a lot more confident now.”
Cook said, the loss to Canton two years ago was possibly the biggest heartbreak he’s had as a coach.
“I’ve been lucky since I started doing this, I’ve had a lot of good teams. The team two years ago, was probably until this year, record wise, for sure, the best team I coached,” Cook said. “I told the kids — ‘I want this game real bad’”
Moulton with 27:06 left before halftime, snuffed out any early momentum for Canton — deflecting a Golden Bear penalty kick on a dive to his right.
Moulton’s save kept Canton off the board with the Shamrocks out in front, 2-0.
“That one (that shot) wasn’t a very fast shot, so I could kind of see where he was going — and I got it,” Moulton said.
Salmon River got out to a double-goal lead after Chase Lewis added an early insurance goal for the Shamrocks off a penalty kick.
“You commit a foul in the box and it’s a penalty kick, I understand that,” Canton head coach Matt Caufield said. “But there’s certain instances where you can pull those out, in my opinion ... but I’m not going to complain about it now because I think they matched the same situation down on the other end shortly after that. And we just didn’t capitalize.”
Lewis’ padding to the lead succeeded Dylan Johnson’s goal 11 minutes into the contest.
The freshman was about 35 yards out from Canton’s net, where he unleashed a kick that flew over the head of Canton goalkeeper Hayden Todd and into the twine.
“I was looking for a bar, obviously, that’s what we normally do, is just cross the ball,” Johnson said. “And, I knew from times before, like with Rick (Chatland) scoring (with 26 seconds left in the last meeting) that, that goalie, he isn’t very tall, so you can just float ‘em in so I tried getting it as far as I could, as far as I could and it went in the right direction.”
The Shamrocks who pulled out a 2-1 and 1-0 win on goals scored in the final two minutes of both games against the Golden Bears this season, did not waste any time jumping on the board early, Wednesday.
“We came ready to play,” Johnson said. “The past few games ... we knew we could have it and we knew we could work ... and we worked hard at the start and that’s what changed. We didn’t go hard from the start last time we played (Canton).”
Wyatt Benedict with 20 minutes before halftime cashed in at the net for the Shamrocks to push their lead to 3-0.
The early damage dealt by Salmon River proved to be crucial in it hanging on to its advantage.
“The best thing we’ve done lately is that we’ve come and put it on teams early. And we make them defend us right off the bat. And that’s what we have to do,” Cook said. “It’s always nice to play when you’re ahead.”
“Their (our teams’) ability to control a game, as a unit and talk to each other — they seem to find the answers, even when you’re not sure if they will.”
After being pinned by the Shamrocks and losing most of the 50-50 balls in the midfield, in the second half’s opening 22 minutes, the Golden Bears struck back.
Canton scored two unanswered goals in regulation’s final 16 minutes — one from Cooper Ladouceur with 16:21 left on the clock and another from Tanner Hazelton. Hazelton’s shot came off a rebound to bring Canton to within one goal.
“Canton never comes to Salmon River and just lays down and loses,” Cook said. “I knew when we went up 3-0 ... they’re (Canton) just not out.”
The Golden Bears were poised for a third goal to tie, but Salmon River’s defense held on in the game’s final three minutes to send the Golden Bears home.
“(Coming back today) was a matter of heart,” Caufield said. “You look at the clock and you’ve got 20 minutes left in your season ... and they looked it up, they dug deep and pulled a little extra out. Once we got that first goal, I knew, we were pressing them pretty solid ... once we got one, I was sure we’d get another — and we should have had a third one, to tie it up. After that who knows what happens.”
The Shamrocks will play the winner between No. 2 Ogdensburg Free Academy and No. 3 Potsdam in the next round.
Cook said, a game like Wednesday can help with momentum, which is crucial when it comes to facing teams that are hot, late in the playoffs.
“We got the worst matchup (in Canton), in my opinion,” Cook said. “But, surviving it and moving on; that might have been the best matchup for us. We’re going to see 100 mph in the next game too.”