By TIM O'SULLIVAN
Chris Gallier's (Bow, N.H./Bow) goal felt too good to be true. Not only did it win Wednesday's game, it was his first score for Saint Michael's, and because it happened in Manchester at Saint Anselm, it was in front of Gallier's hometown crowd.
"It was sweet. The house was packed with a bunch of my Bow friends and (Bow) coach (George) Pinkham was there," said Gallier, a freshman midfielder. "It was my first goal, I didn't know what to do, so I just ran with my arms out like an airplane, but everybody came and hugged me and congratulated me and I kind of got the chills because it was my first goal and it was in front of everybody, it was kind of special, it was nice."
Saint Michael's coach Wade Jean certainly knew it was a special goal, and he was surprised there wasn't another one coming off Gallier's foot on the Saint Anselm turf.
"He wanted that goal, being close to home and in front of his family and friends, and it didn't shock me he got it," Jean said. "We liked the matchup he had and we thought he could have gone on to get a couple goals, but he got the game-winner and it was well-deserved."
The close-to-home matchup also came with a couple of familiar faces – Concord High grad Taylor Silverstein and John Stark grad Jake Reynolds are both freshmen playing for Saint Anselm. Silverstein has started all five games for the Hawks and has one assist while Reynolds is waiting to log his first collegiate minutes.
"I'm good friends with Taylor ... it's fun to go at it with him on the field and talk trash a little bit, but it's all joking, it's all fun," Gallier said. "And I've known Jake for quite a while, too. I've been on his (club) team a couple times."
In addition to the setting and circumstances that amplified Gallier's goal, it was electric on tactical merits. He picked off a sloppy back pass about 30 yards from the Saint Anselm goal, used a good first touch and pace to get around a Hawks defender and then showed some scoring skill with a low, hard shot to the far corner.
That kind of diverse skill set helped Gallier lead Bow to the 2017 Division II semifinals and earn First Team D-II honors. It has also helped him contribute this fall as a college freshman, along with his penchant for physical play.
"The way the college game is officiated does allow for a little more physicality, and I think that's helped Chris," Jean said. "He's a crafty soccer player as well, but he has been able to make the adjustment to college better than a lot of our freshmen because he does have that physical, aggressive game. He wasn't able to use it as much at the youth level, but I think it's a nice launching pad for him here."
Launching pad seemed like the appropriate word after talking to Gallier, who has played in five of six games, with two starts, for the Purple Hawks (2-4-0).
"In practice (at college) I started going really hard and I got tossed at first, but then I kind of knew what to do and I put some bodies out there," he said. "It was a shock how physical it was in college. In high school I was throwing people around as a senior, but now I'm a freshman again."
Gallier still has plenty of potential to fill as a player, and Jean believes he can get there with work and experience.
"The more he plays the more he'll learn how to use all the tools he has," Jean said. "The top high school kids all have good individual skill sets and can make a difference at the youth level with that individual skill, but the biggest adjustments for those kids when they come to college is learning how to play with other guys, learning how to combine with a guy, how to read the game and how to put yourself in a better position. So getting that experience will be big for Chris. He wants to be a good college player, so every game we can get him in, whether it's two minutes or the full game, will pay dividends."
Jean also believes experience will pay for another freshman on his team with local connections, Hopkinton High grad Max Rossignol (Hopkinton, N.H./Hopkinton). Rossignol was a First Team D-III midfielder for the Hawks, helping them win the 2016 D-III title and finish runner-up last year. At the college level, Rossignol's 6-foot-2 size makes him an ideal fit at center back, but that position requires some seasoning, which is why Rossignol has yet to see the field for the Purple Knights.
"Max is doing well. I've got to tell you, he's one of the classiest kids I've ever come across," Jean said. "He's a very focused, very determined young man, but he is fighting for time with the center backs we have that are both juniors. And when you adjust to the college game as a back, you need to have good reads, discipline and experience, and you need to learn how to break up plays. I think that's it with Max, he's just in the learning phase. He's got the size, the strength and the determination to compete, he just needs to develop that feel."