Though making a resolution for the New Year is common practice, the Warwick girls’ hockey team doesn’t have change on the mind as the calendar flips from 2013 to 2014.
Rather, the Lady Titans want their New Year to feature more of what the last two months have already brought – wins, and a place atop the state.
Warwick began 2014 in style, defeating Bay View 5-3 on January 1 behind four goals from sophomore standout Madison Balutowski and then avenging an early-season loss with a 5-1 win over Burrillville/Ponaganset on Saturday night.
The victories moved Warwick into first place in the Emma Division – the state’s top division – with a 6-2 overall record. Its 12 points are one more than second-place Bay View.
“We definitely wanted to be here,” Warwick head coach Dave Tibbetts said. “We knew there was going to be parity this year. We knew we would certainly be in the mix. Midseason, you evaluate yourself and then go on and do the same before the playoffs.”
The evaluation is nothing but positive.
Against Bay View, a team that was in first place prior to the game, Balutowski took over. She scored a goal in the first period to put Warwick up 1-0 and then scored twice in the final minute of the second period to break a 1-1 tie and give the Lady Titans a 3-1 lead heading into the final period.
Early in the third, Balutowski extended the lead to 4-1 with her fourth goal of the day.
She also scored two goals against Burrillville, giving her a state-leading 19 on the season. Her 25 points also lead the state.
The second-highest goal-scorer in the state is Mount’s Briana Castro, with 10 goals – nine behind Balutowski.
“Her speed is her biggest weapon,” Tibbetts said. “Some of her goals are just goal scorer’s goals. She gets one-on-one with the goalie and they just don’t have a chance. She really works hard in practice on a lot of that stuff.”
In the Bay View game, Warwick also got a goal from Kelsey Holmes, who is the second-leading point-getter in the state with 20 points. She also had two assists.
Savannah Hersey and Natasha Savage each had two assists. In net, Gabriella Dicomitis made 18 saves.
“They only had one loss up to that point,” Tibbetts said. “We had seen them play a couple times after us and we were pretty much ready for what they had to offer us.”
On Saturday, Warwick was ready for Burrillville, too. In an early season meeting, Burrillville beat the Lady Titans 3-2, and Warwick had two goals disallowed. The second one, which Jaime Given scored in the final minute of regulation, would have sent the game into overtime but instead was waved off.
With that as motivation, Warwick came out firing.
It tallied three first-period goals, as Holmes scored just 2:54 into the contest before Caroline Henn and Balutowski also added goals. Abby Ellis – the state’s third-leading point-getter – had two assists in the period, while Makenzie Driscoll, Paula Cavanaugh and Alyssa Mathews each had one.
“They’re playing with a lot of pride right now,” Tibbetts said. “They don’t want to lose to the same team twice, especially back-to-back. They were pretty adamant about making a statement.”
After a scoreless second period, Warwick padded its lead when Balutowski scored her second goal of the game 3:26 into the period, with assists credited to Holmes and Hersey.
Burrillville finally got on the board with just under four minutes remaining in the game, but Warwick got the goal right back, as Savage scored with assists from Ellis and Driscoll.
In goal, Erin Vermilye stopped 25 of the 26 shots she saw.
“The kids were pretty fired up to get another chance at them,” Tibbetts said.
Warwick will now try to keep it going over the second half of the season, with a number of teams hot on its tail. Bay View has 11 points, Burrillville has 10 and La Salle – which handed Warwick one of its two losses on the season – has nine. Mount St. Charles is currently in fifth place with four points, but is capable of making a charge as well.
“We’re certainly happy that we’re at the top right now,” Tibbetts said. “But that could easily change.”
Warwick’s next game is on Sunday, and it will be a big one. The Lady Titans will travel to the Portsmouth Abbey Rink to take on Bay View, with puck drop scheduled for 4 p.m.