Erick Millette of the Wounded Warrior Foundation talks to the players before the game.
ALLSTON, Mass. – The rain and lightning proved to be a strong presence early on Monday evening as the inclement weather delayed the start of the first annual Boston Lax All-American game for over an hour-and-a-half. Despite the early weather, nothing was going to deter the event from taking center stage at Harvard Stadium.
As soon as the sky cleared, a rainbow hovered over the Harvard Stadium field, as the teams took the field to play in a game that represented and honored two great organizations, in the Wounded Warrior Foundation and the One Fund.
Team Wounded Warrior would defeat Team Boston Strong on the field of play in the inaugural event, by a final score of 13-12. While the score represented a close and competitive game, the names on the front of the jerseys represented where the focus was before, during and after the game.
“It was just a tremendous event all the way around,” Boston Lax Director Sean Morris said after the game. “For the players to be around an event that focused on two great organizations like the Wounded Warrior Foundation and the One Fund, was very special. It was a great effort by everyone involved. We want to make this an annual event at Harvard and continue to work with all the great supporters of this game.”
In a pre-game talk to all the players, Wounded Warrior representative and Army Combat Patrol Leader and veteran Erick Millette left all the players, coaches and those in attendance, in respectful awe.
Millette’s amazing, inspirational story of heart, courage and perseverance in times of post-war hardship resonated deep in the pre-game locker room. His story was an inspiring message of how to tackle and rebound from adversity during difficult times and how to persevere through life’s challenges and obstacles.
Nick Marrocco made 12 saves on the evening to take home Game MVP.
The game also featured head coaching from MLL veterans Mike Stone (Cannons) and Kevin Buchanan (Cannons) of Team Wounded Warrior and Matt Smalley (Cannons) and Jack Reid (LI Lizards) of Team Boston Strong. All four coaches showed the competitive passion that makes them elite professionals, as they instructed players all the way up until the final whistle was blown.
“Having the professional lacrosse players on the sidelines was special,” Morris added. “Then you bring in a guy like Erick Millette of the Wounded Warrior project and he just did a phenomenal job. I think every kid’s jaw was on the floor when they heard his story and the level of perseverance he has had in life and the obstacles he has gone through.”
The game was also played using a mixture of college and pro rules, including a 60-second shot clock, and adding in the professional two-point shot, that is used in Major League Lacrosse.
Team Wounded Warrior would jump out to a fast start, led by former Middlesex School star AJ Lucchese. The Brown-bound attackman got the scoring going early for Team Wounded Warrior and added the lone offensive punch out of the gate.
“We started out a little rough but as we started to build some chemistry, we figured it out,” Lucchese said after the game. “It was all about getting comfortable with each other. It was very cool to be able to play with and against some guys that you see playing but do not normally play with. It was a lot of fun playing with some guys who are normally rivals in the ISL as well.”
Duxbury All-American goalie Nick Marrocco would close the door on a Boston Strong comeback attempt in the final quarter of play as the junior made several key stops down the stretch to secure the win.
“It was a blast and honor to play in this game and play with all the great players out there tonight,” Marrocco said of the experience. “It was great to have the game also be close in the fourth quarter and have it mean something down the stretch.”
Mike Panepinto goes to the cage in the second half for Team Wounded Warrior.
In an All-Star game it is tough to recognize all the amazing performances but here are a handful that stood out.
Marrocco took home the MVP honors for Team Wounded Warrior as the junior made 12 saves in the first (7) and fourth (5) quarters, including a beautiful stop in the final frame to help Team WW preserve the victory. Marrocco earned a Boston Cannons jersey, which the team donated, as his trophy prize.
The play of the game went to former St. Sebastian’s defensive star and Notre Dame commit Pat Healy who took the ball coast-to-coast, made a couple of dodges, and unloaded a 2-point shot that gave Team WW a 9-6 lead early in the second half of play.
A close runner up for play of the game took place late in the game as Gov's LSM Eli Morrissey dove to save a possession on the sideline so that Boston Strong would have one more chance at a game tying goal. Morrissey's effort drew the roar of the crowd and exemplified what the game was all about.
Governor’s Academy graduate Tate Jozokos did not disappoint as the University of North Carolina bound star athlete showed why he has been recognized as one of New England’s top middies the past few years. Jozokos had a pretty lefty rip as he elevated to score and give Team Boston Strong a big second quarter goal.
Former North Andover attack Nick Pino (Plymouth State) was the high goal-scorer on the night as he netted three tallies for Team Wounded Warrior.
Lucchese provided the early scoring for Team WW as the former Middlesex star and Brown University-bound sniper scored the games first two goals and added an assist later in the first half of play.
(l-r) - Carson Hart (Wayland), Erick Millette (Wounded Warrior Foundation) and Drew Smiley (St. Johns Shrewsbury)
One of the most impressive players on the field all night was Concord-Carlisle long stick middie Nick Brozowski. The junior All-American and Maryland commit was simply amazing on ground balls and also provided great man-to-man defense against some of Massachustts' top midfielders.
Central and Western Massachusetts certainly represented well in the game as Drew Kelleher and Keegan Dudeck of Longmeadow and Hunter Burdick of St. John’s Shrewsbury were also in the running for game MVP with their strong play.
Belmont Hill FOGO Austin Frank showed why Colby College is getting a steal in the talented faceoff specialist. Frank, who faced great competition all night from Western Mass. faceoff middies Matt Lacroix of Westfield and Kelleher, was explosive and strong at the X all night.
Despite dinging the pipe a couple times early in the game All-American attack Tucker Ciessau of Scituate finished the game with two goals and two assists and showed why he has been one of the top scorers in Eastern Mass. for his high school career.
Naval Academy commits Carson Hart (Wayland) and Drew Smiley (St. John’s Shrewsbury) shared a moment in the locker room before the game with Millette as the trio posed for a photo-op representing the military branch schools in the game.