NORTH CLARENDON — Scoring six goals to start the playoffs would make any soccer team feel warm and fuzzy. But it was the way the Mill River boys put the ball in the back of the net that boded well for its performance Tuesday, as well as the future.
Mill River scored the game’s final five goals and sped past Windsor 6-2 in the Division III playdowns, with midfielder Danny Graves joining the scoring parade with his second career marker and goalie Tyler Regula notching his second career assist.
Ryan Jones led the way with a hat trick and Tyler Corey had a goal and two assists but diversity served the team well, and may do so when they go on the road for the quarterfinals.
“We have the potential,” said Graves of Mill River’s impending matchup at No. 2 Enosburg on Friday. “Enosburg is a good team but we can take them.”
“It felt good to put six in the back of the net,” Regula said.
Regula’s strong leg and a strong tailwind helped him with a long goal kick that sailed well over midfield and set Corey into a footrace with the Jacks defense. Corey weaved through two defenders in the penalty area and scored to make it 3-2 early in the second half.
Regula, who broke his nose in the regular-season finale (he will need an operation), had just one save but played with reckless abandon. Twice in the second half, he charged out of goal with sliding tackles just before Windsor strikers could get a foot on the ball in one-on-one situations.
“I’m trying to play like it’s my last game,” Regula said. “To play with this team is amazing.”
Seventh-seeded Mill River (6-9) had the early lead on Jones’ first goal (assisted by Cameron Smith) but the Jacks (No. 10, 4-10-1) scored on a Dylan Hodgdon penalty kick and a Cooper Bevis goal (from Hodgdon) to lead 2-1 7:35 before halftime.
“To get the equalizer before halftime felt really good,” said Minuteman coach Peter Roach, whose team beat the Jacks 6-0 in their season opener.
That goal came when Corey saved the ball at the end line, turned it inside against a defender and sent a cross that Jones ran on to for a point-blank shot past Elijah Milligan.
Milligan had 11 saves in a gritty performance, including several when Mill River was pounding away early in the contest with through balls to Corey and Jones.
“I think he took two goals from us in the first eight or 10 minutes,” Roach said.
Several other prime chances went wide or high as the Minuteman offense was truly prolific in creating opportunities, particularly with the midfield work of Graves, Chris Peer and Smith to slide passes through the Jacks’ last line and send Corey and Jones streaking goalward.
The Minutemen had nine corners to the Jacks’ two, including eight in a second half they dominated.
Dylan DeSchamp’s header just missed netting the equalizer for Windsor, then the Minutemen took charge with Aidan Botti hitting a shot just wide and Corey one just a bit high.
On a Minuteman corner moments later, Smith touched a bouncing serve in the penalty area over to Graves for his shot on goal, making it 4-2 with 20:22 remaining.
With 15 minutes left, Regula’s booming kick set up Corey and Ty Dickerson set up Jones to complete his hat trick with 1:53 to play.
Roach knows little about the Green Hornets but is confident his team’s 10 games against D-II and D-I teams has the Minutemen well prepared.
“You get to find out who you really are,” he said.
And Mill River can find out all over again on Friday on a long trip they are more than happy to make.