PITTSFIELD -- With less than five minutes remaining in the third quarter, visiting Wahconah trailed St. Joseph by a goal. The Warriors needed to steal some momentum.
That's what Matt Salvatore did with his late goal in the third quarter to tie the game. Mike Wagner then scored twice in the fourth as Wahconah held on to beat St. Joseph 8-7 on Friday at Ponterril.
The win gives Wahconah "a lot of momentum" going into the final week of the season, said Wagner. "It's a really big win for us, so it's great."
Salvatore and Curran Pularo each scored three goals for Wahconah while St. Joe was led by Brendan Faas and Levi Lawson, who had two goals each.
St. Joe still needs two wins to qualify for the Central/Western Mass. Division III tournament. Despite Friday's loss, Crusaders coach Ben Kline said he is still feeling good about where his team is.
"It's obviously not the result we wanted, but as far as playing together, our offense seemed to click -- we finally had the right mix of guys in there," he said. "The defense played together. We never panicked. We never let them get us out of sorts.
"Like I said to the team: If we play like this the rest of the way, we'll be right in every game and we'll get the results we need."
Salvatore bounced a shot past St. Joe goalie Wyatt Porter to tie the game. Then, as the fourth quarter opened, the Crusaders' Nick Lincoln was called for slashing Wahconah's Quinn Caesar, and was sent off for a minute.
Seconds after Lincoln went to the sideline, Caesar found Wagner for the goal with 10:46 remaining.
"Curran Pularo cleared some space for me and dumped the ball off," said Wagner. "I managed to beat my guy, open up my hands and got the shot that I was looking for."
Playing with the precarious one-goal lead, Wahconah's defense came up big in the final quarter. Goalie Roger Stedman came up with a pair of big saves in the fourth quarter, one on a shot by Sam Thomason and one on a shot by Lawson.
"There was a big difference. Before, they weren't sliding on the cutters and there were a couple of breakdowns," said Stedman. "But we got the momentum to start sliding."
Wahconah got a huge insurance tally with 1:52 left, off the stick of Wagner. But exactly 42 seconds later, Lawson made it 8-7.
"When I was looking at the two-goal lead, that was a big relief," said Stedman. "When they scored, it was like ‘Oh, God.' I was scared."
St. Joe had one last good scoring chance in the final 20 seconds, but Cody O'Dowd's shot just missed the upper corner of the goal, and Wahconah had its win.
In a low-scoring game, neither team led by more than two goals at any point. The biggest lead belonged to the Crusaders at 4-2 when Faas scored with seven seconds left in the first quarter. St. Joseph also led 5-4 at halftime.
While the Crusaders continue their search for a tournament berth, Wahconah has already made the Division III tournament. Wahconah's coach said his team isn't quite where he wants it to be, and won't have a lot of practice time quite yet.
"It's just game, game, game until Tuesday when the season ends," said Wahconah coach Zach Sondrini. "We've got a lot of things to work on and not a lot of time to do it."
Wahconah 2 2 2 2 -- 8
St. Joseph 4 1 1 1 -- 7
Wahconah goals: Matt Salvatore 3, Curran Pularo 3, Mike Wagner 2. Wahconah assists: Quinn Caesar 2, Salvatore 1, Nick Clayton 1. St. Joseph goals: Brendan Faas 2, Levi Lawson 2, Cole Werhan 1, Sam Thomason 1, Nico Moreno. St. Joseph assists: Cody O'Dowd 1, Thomason 1.
Saves -- Wahconah: Roger Stedman 6. St. Joseph: Wyatt Porter 6.