‘Hungry’ Raiders bounce Greely in playoff opener

PUTTING THE GAME AWAY — Junior Nicole Thurston fires a penalty stroke and scores with four minutes left in the game to give the Raiders an insurance goal against Greely. (Rivet Photo)

PUTTING THE GAME AWAY — Junior Nicole Thurston fires a penalty stroke and scores with four minutes left in the game to give the Raiders an insurance goal against Greely. (Rivet Photo)

By Wayne E. Rivet
Staff Writer
FRYEBURG — A lesson the Raiders learned when they lost to Greely 2-1 in the regular season finale was statistics lie.
Fryeburg dominated the stat sheet, amassing 25 penalty corner chances and firing 28 shots on goal.
Greely had just four shots, but the Rangers pulled out a 2-1 victory, which enabled them to leapfrog Lake Region for the final Class B West field hockey playoff spot.
While the Raiders played well technically from a skills standpoint, Coach Dede Frost felt an important element was missing — heart.
“I explained to the kids that statistics lie. That day, it didn’t matter that we did more things well. We were missing intensity and lost,” Coach Frost said. “I told the girls the first time we had the ball in the circle today, I wanted all of the forwards to be around that ball and be hungry.”
The Raiders listened and responded.
Junior Nicole Thurston pressured Greely goalie Elizabeth Brown, resulting in the ball sliding behind the netminder and allowing senior Allison Watson to fire a shot into the empty net just 1:40 for the ultimate game winner in the prelim round of the Class B West tournament Saturday afternoon in Fryeburg.
The eighth-seeded Raiders added a second half goal to beat Greely 2-0 to advance to the quarterfinals against top-ranked York on Saturday at 3 p.m.
“It was a huge goal. One of the things we were worried about today was finishing. Today, when we were in the circle, not only did we have speed and skill, we had heart — intensity and desire,” Coach Frost said.
Fryeburg dominated territorial play in the first half as the Rangers mounted few offensive chances because of the strong play of Ali Upton, Mary Shea, Bridget Tweedie and Makenzie Hill.
Up 1-0 at the half, Coach Frost emphasized to her players they needed to bring the same intensity they displayed at the start of the game.
“They needed to get back the same momentum they created at the start of the game,” she said. “We needed to pass well, and spread out.”
Fryeburg (8-6-1), however, suffered a “lull” midway through the second half, nearly opening the door to a Greely comeback. FA seemingly had a chance to pin the Rangers in their own end when a Greely player was sent off the field for five minutes for “pushing.”
The man-advantage nearly backfired on the Raiders. Greely was the team that suddenly played with intensity and urgency, nearly scoring a goal. FA netminder Jasmine Ramsay had a shot deflect off her and then had to make a stick stop at the far post to preserve the 1-0 Raider lead.
Sensing her team needed a break, Coach Frost called a timeout.

EARLY CELEBRATION — Teammates congratulate Nicole Thurston after scoring on a penalty stroke late in Saturday's prelim tournament game against Greely. (Rivet Photo)

EARLY CELEBRATION — Teammates congratulate Nicole Thurston after scoring on a penalty stroke late in Saturday's prelim tournament game against Greely. (Rivet Photo)

“They are at a point where their minds and fatigue don’t match. Even though they feel they can keep going — because they have a lot of heart and desire — fatigue does set in and they are unable to go at full speed. It’s a long season and it eventually takes a toll. They don’t want to miss a minute. They were tired today. You could see it,” Coach Frost said. “I called a timeout, which I rarely do, just to give the girls a chance to regroup. I could tell people were falling apart at the same time.”
The breather was just what the Raiders needed. With about four minutes left in the game, Fryeburg players swarmed the Greely net. Although Brown made a couple of saves, she ultimately fell onto the ball resulting in a penalty stroke call.
Decision time. Who would take the penalty stroke?
“I work with five different strokers every day at practice and before games. They are all very good, but today in pregame, there were two girls — Nicole Thurston and Makenzie Hill — that I selected to see if they could score both times. They both did,” Coach Frost said. “Ironically, I looked at both of them when it came time to pick one and Makenzie told me Nicole was more accurate than she was today. I trusted her and put Nicole on the line.”
Thurston was the right pick. Settling low to the ground, the Raider junior flicked a hard drive that beat Brown (11 stops on the day) to her stick side, waist high to ice the victory.
“Nicole is incredibly accurate. Funny, that’s not usually where the ball goes — her shot is usually top corner — but it worked,” Coach Frost said. “It was quick. Nicky has good movement on the ball. That’s what you need when you go 1-on-1.”
Late in the game, Frost pulled her forwards back to help the defense prevent any late Greely surge. When the horn sounded to end the game, players surrounded Ramsay who posted her sixth shutout of the season.
Next up is the Wildcats.
“I was more uptight about this game (Greely) than going to play at York. No question. York is 14-0. It is what it is. They are Number 1 for a reason. We have absolutely nothing to lose, but everything to gain,” Coach Frost said. “Today, we went into this game as the better team — I believe — but still had to prove it. We had to show that the other day when we lost to them, it wasn’t our day. Going to York, it’s not frightening to me, it’s exciting — I hope the girls feel the same way. You have to pump them up and make them feel that this game is a chance to show them (York) why we are in the playoffs — show them we belong.”
The Raiders lost their only meeting to York 4-1 in Fryeburg. York posted 12 shutouts this season, and allowed just two goals — one by the Raiders, the other by Greely (5-9-1). While the Cats will be huge favorites, Coach Frost has been involved in a few upsets over the years.
“What’s fun about coaching is you know anything can happen,” said. “We want to go out there and play to the best of our abilities, and see what happens.”

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