Mohamed Mohamed (“Momo”) charges forward with the ball. Adam Birt / American Journal

WESTBROOK — The Blazes welcomed Cheverus on Saturday, Oct. 26 for a rematch of the teams’ recent tie. This time, though, the stakes were higher: The regular season is over and playoffs are well underway. And this time, Westbrook – on Dante Lingley and Chris Hatch goals – claimed victory over the Stags, 2-1.

The Blazes battled Cheverus to a 1-1 tie on Friday night, Oct. 18.

When asked what Westbrook hoped to do differently against the Stags, given another shot at them, Westbrook co-captain Devin Cyr quipped, “Win.”

“After last game, our coach made it clear to us that we can’t play it through the middle (against Cheverus),” he said. “We’ve got to keep it wide on them. They invite us to the middle, then counter on us in the middle. So we tried to focus on keeping it more wide and putting it down the sides.”

“We wanted to move the ball faster, play quicker,” Hatch said of the squads’ rematch. “We noticed in the last game, we played a little too slow – too much dribbling. We wanted to play one-touch, two-touch, back-and-forth, move up the field. It resulted in a win this time.”

Assisted by Jacob Thornton, Hatch scored on a little breakaway roughly seven minutes into the first half. When asked about his tally, Hatch echoed Cyr.

“We wanted to keep the ball wide,” he said. “We had a long ball from Jacob Thornton; it bounced off the back of AQ’s left foot, got the breakaway, a few touches, ended up in the back of the net.” (“AQ” is senior forward Ahmed Qasem.)

Hatch is a popular target for the Blazes: The team likes to find him on the wing and feed him – at least, they do versus Cheverus.

“(Cheverus leaves) so much room in the back,” Hatch said. “Between the midfield and defense, there’s plenty of room to dribble, pass, take a shot, cross the ball. So we want to get the ball wide. It worked well this game.”

Twenty-four minutes after Hatch lit the proverbial lamp, Lingley struck, fed by Cyr.

“Ooh, it was amazing,” Cyr said of the action leading up to Lingley’s goal, and the goal itself. “It was a throw-in; I saw the opportunity so I went up and Sebri (Ahamed) threw it to me. I tried to do a little flick, but I think it got mixed up – I couldn’t really see where it went. It popped back out and I went, got it, brought it down the sideline and tried to split it through. It went right to Dante, who put it in for us.”

“I was just running in, and all I see was a whole mob of kids towards the goal,” Lingley said. “I just could not see the ball. Then I see the ball come straight to me, and I took a little touch and kicked it to the other side of the goal and it went in.”

“I didn’t want to let my team down this game,” he said, “because it’s playoffs. I know it means a lot for the team. So I was trying to be more aggressive, more smart with the ball, better touches, and just finish well.”

Cheverus cranked up their pressure as the contest progressed, and they didn’t go without opportunities, but the Westbrook defense – Cyr is a primary fixture, as are Jackson Thayer, Mohamed Mohamed and Matt Weymouth – looked solid throughout. With 3:11 to play in the first half, for example, Weymouth tipped a Stags shot just high and wide of the Blazes’ cage.

“The whole game, we did pretty good,” Cyr said, when asked about Westbrook’s defensive efforts. “We just made sure everyone was marked up. The struggle was we had a lot of fouls at the midfield, and that just gave them the opportunity to constantly pressure us. So we had to constantly win the ball out every time, and try not to foul them back there … You can’t have any fouls in the defensive third.”

Westbrook netminder Tony Oduki likewise turned a number of important saves. E.g., Oduki recorded a huge charging grab late in the downhill half, thwarting a Cheverus opponent’s approach – what would’ve turned into a quality one-on-one for the Stags.

“Getting to the ball really fast,” Lingley said, when asked what sorts of trouble Cheverus brought to the field for the Blazes. “Quick plays after the call. They were really smart with the ball – had high IQ toward the field: where to set the ball, where to pass the ball.”

The Stags did eventually get on the board – but only on a penalty kick following a Westbrook handball. Brady Cormier did the honors for Cheverus, shooting left while Oduki dove right. A goal is a goal, and the Stags pulled within one. One is as close as they would get, however.

The Blazes also dug up good chances beyond those they actually converted on. Early in the second half, Qasem charged up the right side and beat one defender. A second Stag ducked in and interrupted Qasem’s progress, though.

Not long after, Hatch logged a pretty rebound attempt at the left Cheverus post, but Stags keeper Harrison Bell made the grab.

Later – with under three minutes to play in regulation – Qasem fired off a shot from way out. It was a good ball; it simply sailed a few inches too high.

Westbrook Head Coach Vince Aceto – notoriously mic-averse, he would rather let his players do the talking – wryly manufactured the most generic comment he could think of: “I am very excited, and very proud, and extremely happy for the entire program.” Generic, but not untrue.

Aceto then added, “Hashbrown: Go Blue!”, mistaking the word “hashbrown” for the word “hashtag.” The error amused his boys greatly.

The prelims win bumped No. 8 Westbrook to 8-4-3 on the fall. The Blazes advanced to the next round of the tournament, the quarterfinals; they travel to No. 1 Gorham on Wednesday night, Oct. 30. When Westbrook encountered the Rams in the regular season, they won – perhaps to many people’s surprise. The teams’ Halloween-Even rematch should be a nail-biter.

Cheverus retires till 2020 at 5-6-4.

PK saves are hard to make, and Blazes netminder Tony Oduki didn’t get this one. He did, however, stop a lot of other quality Cheverus chances. Adam Birt / American Journal

Ahmed Qasem fires forward. Adam Birt / American Journal

Yahya Altaie connects on a Westbrook header. Adam Birt / American Journal

Jacob Thornton clashes with a Stag. Adam Birt / American Journal

Devin Cyr is a top-caliber defender for Westbrook; he also gives a mean interview. Adam Birt / American Journal

Shawwal Shueyb heads a ball for the Blazes. Adam Birt / American Journal

Comments are not available on this story.