SALT LAKE CITY — East's Landen Carlson missed on his share of opportunities, but connected when it perhaps mattered most. With the score tied late, Carlson placed a shot into the upper right-hand corner of the net to give East the victory over region foe Woods Cross, 2-1.
"I was happy for Landen, and it was a great shot, but I was happy for our team and how we played," said East coach Rudy Schenk. "It's important for us to hold serve at home, and we feel we have a good home-field advantage, so it was important to pull this one out against a very well-coached Woods Cross team."
East controlled the play for most of the game but found itself down 1-0 with just over 33 minutes left in the game after a defensive miscue. The Leopards failed to clear the ball effectively on their end, and Woods Cross' Zach Checketts took advantage by hoisting the ball over the charging goalie and into an open net.
It didn't take East long to respond, however.
Just three minutes later, Mauricio Santana tied things up with a carefully placed shot.
"I think a lot of times we're just trying to kick it as hard as we can, but if that hard shot isn't on frame, it does you no good. Mauricio did a great job finishing his chance there, however, and that was big for us," Schenk said. "It was important for us to respond as quickly as we did and take the momentum they had right back."
East dominated the play from that point but couldn't quite connect on goal until Carlson broke through with what proved to be the game-winning goal with just two and a half minutes left on the clock.
"We're not finishing as well as we need to right now, but it's getting better, I feel," Schenk said. "Landen's goal was big because you obviously don't want to go into overtime at home and give back any momentum."
East had to make do with two of its starters out of town, but received key contributions from three freshmen — particularly from Hugo Olivera.
"Hugo assisted on that last goal and that was the type of contribution we got from all three of our freshmen today," Schenk said. "They really stepped up, and that was a great thing for us. We're still figuring things out as a team, so it's great to get a complete team effort like we did."
With the win, East improves to 4-0-3 on the year and 2-0 in region play. Next up for the Leopards is a road game against Bountiful on April 12.
"We have a lot of time off now because of spring break and you hate that as a coach," Schenk said. "It's like this every year, but hopefully the kids can rest and I think we have the guys to do a lot of great things this year. Bountiful is a tough team, and I think we're going to have tough games every night in this region, but I like where we're at as a team and how we're improving."
With the loss, Woods Cross drops to 1-5 on the year and will next take on Clearfield at home on April 12.