(DOWN FOR THE COUNT: Duxbury goaltender Henry Buonagurio gets leveled by Irondequoit’s Nick Doktor is Saturday’s 4-3 loss to the Eagles. Photo: Jim Tarbox)

Duxbury Coach Chris Sweet predicted this would be one of the most challenging schedules his Dragons have every faced since he took over the program, and it won’t take long to discover how accurate he was.

After cruising to a pair of lopsided victories over Quincy and North Quincy, the Dragons played the first of many tough games on their 2012 schedule when they met Irondequoit from upstate New York on Saturday afternoon in Duxbury. In a complete turn-around from how easily it manhandled the two Quincy schools in its first two games, Duxbury met its match at Chandler Field and struggled offensively before losing to the Eagles, 4-3.

Rarely have the Dragons been shut out for a quarter, never mind two, as the Eagle defense limited Duxbury’s normally high-powered offense to just three goals behind the superb goaltending of senior Eric Fischer, who came up big on numerous occasions, but also had a pair of friendly posts that aided in his stellar performance.

The visitors got on the board just three and a half minutes into the game when senior attack Nick Doktor beat senior Henry Buonagurio, but it was a short-lived lead, as senior Paul Hellar took a pass behind the net and came out to Fischer’s right to beat the visiting netminder to tie the game with 8:07 left in the quarter.

Both teams had difficulty hanging onto their next possessions, but Irondequoit rectified that situation at the 5:36 mark when senior midfielder Gunnar Miller faked a Dragon defender out of his shoes from 10 yards out and walked in on Buonagurio unmolested, beating him to the top right corner.

Duxbury came right back less than a minute later when senior Andrew Buron stole an errant pass and found senior Sam Sweet, who uncorked a low shot that bounced past Fischer to tie the game at 2-2.

The second quarter began with the Dragons a man down, but Chris Williams almost took advantage of the shorthanded situation by going in along on Fischer, only to see his shot ring off the post for one of several missed Duxbury opportunities.

The play of Fischer seemed to inspire the Eagles, who came back a couple of minutes later when Doktor found himself alone behind the Duxbury net. Waiting for his fellow attacks to crisscross in front of Buonagurio, he suddenly found senior Connor Enright all alone in front of the Duxbury net and hit him with a pass that he buried for a 3-2 lead with 9:28 left in the half.

Just over a minute later it looked like the Dragons would tie the score for the third time when Hellar came out from behind the net once again and rattled his shot off the post. Irondequoit Coach Craig Whipple didn’t like what he was seeing and called a timeout with 7:22 to go to get his troops on the same page.

The gab session proved profitable, as it took the Eagles just 87 seconds to up their lead to 4-2 when Miller beat the Duxbury defense and bounced a shot past “Bongo” with 5:55 to go in the half.

Rarely do the Dragons enter halftime having scored just two goals, and to be trailing by two is even more unusual.

“As the season goes on the shooting will get better, our offensive movement will get better and our stick work will get better,” said Sweet.

It was obvious they weren’t playing any Patriot League foes this afternoon, and they had their work cut out for them if they wanted back in the game.

Close to nine minutes passed in the third quarter before the Dragons would narrow the margin to one when Hellar found Sweet by the side of the net from 15 yards out and fed him a pass that he redirected past Fischer to make the score 4-3 with 6:28 to go.

The Dragons would win the ensuing face-off and sprint into the Eagle’s end of the field, holding onto the ball for the next five minutes before losing possession and a chance to tie it up. What had started as an offensive show in the first 12 minutes, suddenly became a defensive struggle, as the third quarter ended with just one goal scored between the two teams.

Neither team could mount much of an offensive attack until Doktor lined up Buonagurio from five yards out and watched the senior rob him of an insurance tally with 8:07 left on the clock.

Both teams were now in the middle of an eight-minute contest, with every possession and strategic timeout geared for a tie or some breathing room for Irondequoit.

With 6:58 to go Fischer made another spectacular save to rob Seamus Connelly and Whipple had seen enough, signaling for a time out and pulling his team aside for a breather.

The Eagles didn’t have the ball for long, as Duxbury regained possession after 30 seconds and it was now Sweet’s turn to gather his players for a strategy session.

When play resumed the Dragons had a shot that went past the end line. But with no Duxbury players in sight the Eagles took over. Both teams turned the ball over with holding and fending off calls as the time ticked away.

A minor controversy held up the game briefly, as the visitors questioned the penalty release of a Duxbury player. But once it was settled the Dragons had possession with 24 second left in the game. As they worked the ball in tight, the Eagle defense swarmed, forcing a pass past the Duxbury attackers, who watched the ball roll to midfield along with their chances for victory.

“Their defense was really good,” said Sweet. “We struggled to score and they have a high-powered offense too. It’s unusual to have a 4-3 game, but they are a great team and I think we have a lot of room for improvement. It’s still early and we’ll get better, but so will everyone else. So obviously we have some work to do. We were pretty stagnant today. You need to bring you’re “A” game when you play a team like Irondequoit, but today we brought our “B+” game.”

On Wednesday night at 7 p.m. on Chandler Field the Dragons will take on Billerica HS, followed by a noontime away game on Saturday against Jamesville DeWitt HS of Syracuse, NY.