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Last-Minute Shocker Lifts Lakers Past Engineers

  • Nick Skarin, middle, is swarmed by his Sunapee teammates after scoring to break a 1 - 1 tie with Woodsville in the final minutes of their semifinal match in Laconia N.H. Thursday, November 7, 2013. Sunapee won 2 - 1.<br/>(Valley News - James M. Patterson)

    Nick Skarin, middle, is swarmed by his Sunapee teammates after scoring to break a 1 - 1 tie with Woodsville in the final minutes of their semifinal match in Laconia N.H. Thursday, November 7, 2013. Sunapee won 2 - 1.
    (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Purchase photo reprints »

  • Woodsville's Chris Sarkis, left, reacts as Sunapee teammates help Alex Gioldassis up from the turf after he scored the first goal of the state semifinal match in Laconia N.H. Thursday, November 7, 2013. Sunapee won 2 - 1.<br/>(Valley News - James M. Patterson)

    Woodsville's Chris Sarkis, left, reacts as Sunapee teammates help Alex Gioldassis up from the turf after he scored the first goal of the state semifinal match in Laconia N.H. Thursday, November 7, 2013. Sunapee won 2 - 1.
    (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Purchase photo reprints »

  • Nick Skarin, middle, is swarmed by his Sunapee teammates after scoring to break a 1 - 1 tie with Woodsville in the final minutes of their semifinal match in Laconia N.H. Thursday, November 7, 2013. Sunapee won 2 - 1.<br/>(Valley News - James M. Patterson)
  • Woodsville's Chris Sarkis, left, reacts as Sunapee teammates help Alex Gioldassis up from the turf after he scored the first goal of the state semifinal match in Laconia N.H. Thursday, November 7, 2013. Sunapee won 2 - 1.<br/>(Valley News - James M. Patterson)

Laconia, n.h. — Play was back-and-forth, but only one team could move forward after Thursday’s NHIAA Division IV boys soccer semifinal between Suanpee and Woodsville.

Lakers senior Nick Skarin made sure it was Sunapee.

The lanky midfielder broke a 1-1 tie with 41 seconds remaining, lofting a bomb from 38 yards out over the head of Woodsville keeper Tom D’Angelo and sending the No. 5 Lakers to the championship game with a 2-1 win over the top-ranked Engineers at Laconia High School’s Jim Fitzgerald Field.

Sunapee takes on defending champion Derryfield on Saturday at Exeter High School.

Skarin’s shocking goal came after a turnover at midfield and handed the Engineers (16-2-1) just their second loss and first in 11 games. Skarin is one of Sunapee’s leading scorers.

The Lakers (13-4-2) never trailed and showed they could win a close playoff game after outscoring their first two opponents of the postseason 11-2.

“Nick can score in so many ways,” said 17th-year Sunapee coach Jack Iacopino, whose team has never won a title, but will play in its second championship game in three seasons Saturday. “He’s great from close range, he’s great from long range and he’s great with headers. It never really surprises me when he scores, no matter where it’s from on the field.”

Senior Dan Roy scored on a brilliant corner-kick feed from David Bazzell in the second half for the Engineers, who missed a chance to vie for their first state title since 2005. They were ranked No. 1 in the tournament for the first time since 1989, according to 37th-year Woodsville mentor Mike Ackerman.

“I don’t think there was anything Tom could do on that one,” Ackerman said of Skarin’s winner. “I felt like I was at a Dartmouth game watching a right outside halfback rip it up the field. That was probably the best strike I’ve seen all year.”

In cold, mildly breezy conditions at Laconia High’s new artificial turf stadium, both teams struggled for sustained possession while counteracting each other’s speed and aggressiveness.

Sunapee enjoyed the better of play early, with Woodsville defender Skylar Clough needing to knock away a bid from Skarin at 2:52 and Sunapee’s Ty Brown sending one over the crossbar at 4:19. Clough later kept his productive start going by knocking away a Lakers’ crossing pass from Liam Sherwin intended for Brown.

Meanwhile, Sunapee’s midfield and back four stymied a Woodsville attack that netted 64 goals in its first 18 games. The Lakers kept Woodsville’s shifty scoring threat, Bazzell, primarily glued to the wings, and when he did maneuver inside, many of his shots were off-balance.

Bazzell got Woodsville’s first shot off in the 15th minute, but later overshot teammate Derek Maccini on a free kick. A subsequent corner kick by Woodsville went wayward as quality chances remained scarce for both teams through the middle stages of the first half.

Both managed strong bids before intermission. The Engineers’ Roy forced a diving stop in the left corner from Sunapee keeper James Fitzgerald (five saves) with less than seven minutes to play and the Lakers’ Alex Gioldassis sent a bicycle kick sailing over the crossbar to keep the game scoreless at halftime.

“Both teams had their opportunities,” Iacopino said. “(Woodsville) had a lot of skill, maybe more than I thought.”

The Lakers came out aggressively in the second half, earning a pair of fruitless corner kicks in the opening minute.

Sunapee finally got scorekeepers scribbling at 47:03, when Gioldassis gathered a through ball on the run at close range from junior Bryan Deschamps and plunked it to the left corner past D’Angelo to make it 1-0.

The Engineers tied it up 8:27 later on their first corner kick of the half. Bazzell sent the ball to the far side of the goalmouth and into a lunging wave of Woodsville players. Bending inward toward the goal, the offering glanced off the body of an airborne Roy for the senior’s ninth goal to make it 1-1.

“It might have gone in even if (Roy) didn’t touch it, but he ran right into it,” Ackerman said.

Woodsville played with renewed vigor after the goal, forcing saves on shots from Chris Sarkis and Roy with less than 20 minutes remaining. In another sequence, the Engineers sent three straight attempts at close range, but each was blocked by the Lakers’ sturdy defense.

Skarin put a header on net for Sunapee with 11 minutes left, Ethan Weinstein pushed one wide left and Weinstein misfired long on a clear chance with 6:22 to play for the Lakers.

Indeed, it appeared the game was bound for overtime before Skarin’s thrilling score.

“Both teams worked hard and had plenty of chances,” Ackerman said. “It’s one of those games where you hate to see either team lose.”

Free Kicks: Kickoff was delayed 45 minutes because of the late-running early semi, No. 3 Derryfield eventually knocking off No. 10 Profile 4-3 on penalty kicks following a 0-0 game through two overtimes. ... It was Sunapee’s sixth straight win since dropping a 3-1 decision to Stevens at home on Oct. 15. ... Sunapee held a 14-10 advantage in shots and 6-4 edge in corner kicks. ... D’Angelo and Fitzgerald both had five saves. ... Sunapee’s keeper has the same first and last names as the man the field is named for. Laconia’s James Fitzgerald is a retired longtime football coach and physical education teacher at the school. ... Bazzell led the Engineers with 18 goals, 13 assists, including three assists in the playoffs. Sophomore Mike Dennis had 14 goals and seven assists for Woodsville. ... The Engineers lose D’Angelo, Roy, Jacob Frost and Jared Mitchell to graduation.

Jared Pendak can be reached at jpendak@vnews.com or 603-727-3306.