More than a few eyes were opened, rubbed and made to blink a few times by Husson University’s men’s lacrosse game against Saint Joseph’s College in Bangor Saturday afternoon.
Including the pair that head coach Jeremy Mattoon used to watch his team’s 14-5 victory over the Monks of Standish.
It wasn’t just the victory, but the margin of victory that surprised more than a few people.
“Realistically, starting seven freshmen and being in just our second year, beating Saint Joe’s should not happen,” said Mattoon, whose Eagles are 2-4 overall and 1-0 in North Atlantic Conference play after going 4-9 in their first season last year. “I’m sure they showed up expecting to win. Why wouldn’t they?
“I don’t think they came up here thinking they had to play an above-normal game to win.”
While it was Husson sophomore attacker Ben Landry of Lewiston who drew the most notice with his six-goal outburst, it was the continued solid play by sophomore goalies John Hooper and Alex Behzad and overall quality team defense that drew rave reviews from Mattoon.
“I’ve got the best defender in the conference with Matt Tabler,” Mattoon said. “[Saint Joseph’s] Spencer Hunt was the NAC rookie of the week last week and had 14 points coming in, but all he had was one assist against Tabler.”
Hooper, a transfer from Curry College, and Behzad both played Saturday and made six and five saves, respectively.
Playing two goalies in the same game is unusual enough, but Mattoon is so impressed with his team’s depth at the position, he has played all three in two of the last three games.
“Yes, for the most part. It’s very unusual,” Mattoon said. “I think they’re all very good and to be honest, there’s no clear-cut number one. It’s our deepest position, one [Behzad] is a lefty, so that throws teams off, and all three of them play different styles, too.”
The third goalie is freshman Tyler Quinn, who has racked up 94½ minutes in three games, one of which he started. Behzad has one start in five games with 105½ total minutes and Hooper has started two of five games for 154 minutes.
Combined, the goalie trio has saved 71 of 120 shots on goal (59.2 percent). Opponents have attempted 207 total shots.
“We controlled the entire game from start to finish,” Mattoon said. “There’s nobody on the planet who was more happy as a coach than I was on Saturday. We didn’t do a lot of things wrong.”
One thing that did irk Mattoon was the team’s total number of penalties (21).
“We play a more aggressive style and I think a lot of that comes from our Pennsylvania trip,” Mattoon explained. “The trip really helped us take on an identity and not be passive, but we need to get those down. We really want to have no more than 10.”
Husson’s next big test comes today at 3 p.m. against Maine Maritime Academy in Castine. The Mariners, picked third in the NAC preseason poll (Husson was fifth), hammered the Eagles 14-3 last year.
“I think Tuesday will be a big determining factor as to what our season’s going to be,” he said. “If we can win all three [No. 6 Saint Joseph’s, No. 3 MMA, No. 4 Johnson State Saturday] of these games, we could put ourselves in position to host a playoff game.”
That would be huge for the Eagles, whose top two goals coming into this season are winning 10 games and hosting a playoff game.
“We’re building something here and as long as we have a good nucleus year to year, I think we’ll become a good team sooner than I expected,” Mattoon said. “So we’re excited, but we’re trying to keep it real.”
That’s difficult to do with a deep (21 of 29 players played Saturday) squad composed of 17 freshmen, 10 sophomores (four of whom are captains), two juniors and no seniors.
“We’re deep and talented. We played 21 guys Saturday. But only 12 of our guys have collegiate experience before this season,” Mattoon said. “We’ll win a game we’re not supposed to win and we’ll lose one we’re not supposed to lose because of our youth.”