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NCCS deals Saranac Lake boys first loss

NCCS goalkeeper John Bulson dives to cover up the ball in front of a hard-charging Reuben Bernstein of Saranac Lake during the second half of Thursday’s match. (Enterprise photo — Lou Reuter)

SARANAC LAKE — Thursday was not the type of result the Saranac Lake boys soccer team was hoping for.

Hosting Northeastern Clinton to open its Northern Soccer League schedule, Saranac Lake gave up two goals in the first half, one more after intermission, and at the same time, the Red Storm’s attack was unable to solve a solid defense in a 3-0 setback to the Cougars.

Ryan O’Donnell, a junior, scored twice in the opening half and Marcus Bedard put the game away with the only goal after intermission.

O’Donnell’s first-half tallies were especially tough for the Red Storm to swallow. The goal from Bedard, however, was a beauty that came on a rocket the freshman banged off the right goal post and into the back of the net 13:39 into the second half that gave the Cougars a commanding three-goal cushion.

“A little frustrating to come out and start on our home field and put up a loss,” said Brad Rafferty, who is co-coaching Saranac Lake along with Josh Marlow. “I think it’s a good learning experience for us though. This team has high expectations so we need to know what we have to work on. Hopefully we get the ones like this out of the way early in the season.”

Nick Kelting, right, controls the ball for Saranac Lake during action Thursday against Northeastern Clinton at Schroeter’s Field in Saranac Lake. (Enterprise photo — Lou Reuter)

NCCS put Saranac Lake in an early hole when O’Donnell netted his first goal just 4:30 into the match. The teams then flipped the field pretty evenly, but the Cougars grabbed a big leg up when O’Donnell scored his second of the game with less than four minutes remaining in the first half on a stoppable shot that went through the hands of Red Storm keeper Zach Churco and dribbled over the goal line.

The Cougars then basically put the match out of reach with Bedard’s goal, which came on a waist-high blast he fired from the left side of the penalty box to the opposite side of the net.

“Their first two goals, I think we did that to ourselves, and the third, I’ll tip my hat to them, their kid got off a nice shot,” Rafferty said. “They were good. They seemed composed with the ball, passed it well but I think we also gave them too much time to do that. We didn’t step quick enough. We were in the right positions but let them turn, and when you give them time to turn, they have enough time to make passes.”

Saranac Lake finished with a 9-8 edge in shots. Junior John Bulson earned the shutout victory in goal for the Cougars. Michael Pennington, Owen Hollister and Chase Ross recorded an assist each in the win.

The Red Storm made several advances into the Cougars’ defensive end of the field throughout the game but had limited looks at the net.

“Our team does well getting the ball down to the goal box, but then it’s that last, that final play, is what we are missing now. We’re good in the defensive end, we’re good at midfield, but I think we’re missing runs. Right now we’re making it easy for the other team to cover us. We need to get creative.”

The Red Storm entered Thursday’s match after recording a pair of 1-0 wins in the preseason to win the Saranac Central tournament a week ago.

The Cougars also headed into league play with a 2-0 preseason record after taking down two opponents by a combined 14-0 score.

“I’m getting a lot of really good minutes from my defense,” NCCS coach Nick Trombley said. “They’re playing really well. They are really impressing me, and I have two guys coming off the bench. It’s not four guys, it’s six guys rotating in and out and they don’t get tired.”

Rafferty credited senior Nick Kelting with a strong performance in Thursday’s match. Normally the Red Storm’s sweeper, Kelting was moved to the forward line as an offensive threat against the Cougars.

Saranac Lake next plays Tuesday on the road against Peru.