Former Pinkerton star goalie Matt Johnson is one of 10 former Astros currently playing at Keene State College. Johnson is having a fantastic year in net for the unbeaten Owls and is the reigning Little East Conference Defensive Player of the Year.

Keene State College head lacrosse coach Mark Theriault had a plan in mind when he was heavily recruiting former Pinkerton goalie Matt Johnson.

After landing Ronnie Ward, also a former Pinkerton star, four years ago, Theriault realized the endless potential if he could successfully build a pipeline from perennial lacrosse power Pinkerton to Keene. His next two targets were Johnson and former Pinkerton midfielder Ryan Hazelton, who were both a year behind Ward and playing their senior seasons at Pinkerton in 2004.

"I was courting Matt and Ryan because they both came to one of my lacrosse camps," said Theriault, who is currently in his eighth year at Keene. "They both decided to come to Keene, and then the floodgates opened.

"It made sense to be going after the best players in the state, especially with UNH not having a program. I knew that Pinkerton had a great lacrosse reputation, and I was familiar with the way the kids played."

The coach's plan was executed to perfection. After the landing of Johnson and Hazelton, a steady flow of Astros followed over the next two years.

There are currently 10 former Pinkerton standouts on the Owl's roster, six in the starting lineup. Led by Johnson, the reigning Little East Conference (LEC) Defensive Player of the Year, The Pinkerton-Keene connection has helped the Owls to a 10-0 record this spring and a firm hold on first place in the LEC standings.

Johnson, a junior, in his third year as Keene's starting goalie is the elder statesman of the former Pinkerton players, along with Ward and his roommate Hazelton. He has led by example between the pipes for the Owls, posting an impressive 4.90 goals against average and a .723 save percentage this spring.

Johnson is widely considered the top netminder in the LEC and credits some of his success to a comfort level that comes along with playing alongside familiar faces.

"I like playing with the Pinkerton guys because I know exactly what they can do," said Johnson, who won the state championship in his freshman and sophomore years at Pinkerton. "There is definitely a comfort zone playing with these guys."

Fellow Astros Hazelton (eight goals, three assists) and sophomore attack Tony Sante Fe (21 goals, 24 assists) have bolstered the offensive side of the lineup, while Ward and sophomore Kevin McCarthy have anchored the defense for the Owls.

But much of the team's success begins and ends with Johnson, who has was also named LEC Rookie of the Year in his freshman season and was a First-Team All-LEC selection in each of his first two years.

"Matt has been exactly what a head coach is looking for," Theriault said. "He is a Division 1 caliber goalie. He's quick, he can see the field and most importantly he's a fabulous kid."

Johnson and many of his teammate grew accustomed to winning while at Pinkerton, so an NCAA tournament appearance could be well-within reason this year for Keene.

"I definitely think we can get to the tourney," said Johnson, who also played football at Pinkerton. "Our goal is to go as far as possible."

Last year, Keene's NCAA bid came up a bit short when the Owls lost to Eastern Conn. State University in the LEC tournament. The Owls will have a chance to avenge that loss tomorrow and can take a big step towards attaining homefield advantage in this year's LEC tournament with a victory.

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