Warwick girls’ hockey coach Dave Tibbetts expected parity this season. Fresh off an impressive opening weekend, his Titans weren’t immune to it.
After rolling over Lincoln and knocking off two-time defending state champ La Salle last week, Warwick gave up two third-period goals and lost 3-2 to Burrillville/Ponaganset on Friday night at Thayer Arena.
“There should be a lot of parity in both divisions this year,” Tibbetts said. “In our division, I think anybody can pretty much beat anybody on any given weekend.”
And anybody can have a headline-making weekend. The first one belonged to the Titans. Burrillville/Ponaganset followed suit this time, and immediately following their game, Bay View made its mark with a victory La Salle.
The Titans were hoping to continue establishing themselves as a contender and seemed to be in good position when they broke a 1-1 tie with a goal early in the third period. The Broncos responded with two straight goals – one on a short-handed breakaway – and the Titans couldn’t deliver a comeback. They had a goal disallowed in the final minute.
“We had a good week of practice,” Tibbetts said. “We were pretty sharp. It just didn’t carry over in the game. Our break-outs were sloppy, our passing was sloppy. We didn’t play as good as we thought we’d be able to play, but we were still in position to tie it at the end.”
The Titans fell behind 1-0 with 2:31 to go in the first period on a goal by Margaret Reid. It was a new feeling – the wins over Lincoln and La Salle were both shutouts.
“I think we took last weekend as a really big thing,” said senior captain Jaime Given. “We beat the defending state champions and I think we came into this weekend a little over-confident. We didn’t have our mindset to play another big, physical team.”
The Titans got their minds right enough to tie the game early in the second period. Just 2:10 into the period – after Warwick had come up empty on a power play – Madison Balutowski swept the puck away from a scramble in front of the crease and ripped a left-handed shot into the net for the equalizer. Natasha Savage and Kelsey Holmes assisted.
Warwick picked up a penalty with 5:37 left but generated the first scoring chance on a breakaway by Balutowski. Her shot skipped wide, though. The Broncos delivered a blast from the point but freshman goalie Gabriella Dicomitis snagged it out of the air.
Late in the period, the Titans were whistled for two penalties 44 seconds apart. The Broncos didn’t get anything before the break but came out of the locker room with 1:13 still left on the 5-on-3.
The Titans killed it off, though, and soon after, the Broncos were headed to the box. This time, Warwick capitalized. Abby Ellis scored with 12:24 left on assists from Holmes and Balutowski, giving Warwick the lead.
“We built momentum after the kill,” Tibbetts said. “We were trying for the second one to put them away but we just didn’t get it.”
The Broncos got the next goal instead. With 9:32 left, Reid skated through the slot and slipped a shot past Dicomitis to tie the game at 2-2. Just over a minute later, Burrillville picked up a penalty and the Titans started pushing hard. But when the Broncos’ Emily Cardon blocked a shot by Ellis she found herself on a wide open breakaway. She beat Dicomitis to give the Broncos the lead with 6:34 to go.
“We kept most of their shots to the outside,” Tibbetts said. “They got a couple of screens and the breakaway hurt.”
As Warwick tried for another comeback, Ellis got loose on a breakaway but had the puck knocked away. Paula Cavanagh broke free a minute later, but goalie Taylor Duquette made the save.
With 49 seconds left, Warwick pulled Dicomitis for an extra skater and thought it had broken through. Off a scramble in front, Savage tipped the puck into the net, but the referee waved it off, telling Tibbetts the puck was under Duquette’s pad.
“Even the other coach said, ‘You got robbed,’” Tibbetts said.
The Titans got one more look on an Ellis breakaway in the final seconds, but Duquette made one more save to preserve the victory.
“We started off slow and by the time we turned it on, it was too late,” said junior captain Savannah Hersey.
The Broncos improved to 2-0.
“They’re a good team and they deserve the two points,” Tibbetts said.
Warwick will focus on bouncing back, with another busy stretch ahead. The team plays Cranston this weekend before closing out 2013 with games against La Salle and Mount St. Charles.
“I think after a big weekend like last week, we need to just shut it out, pretend it never happen and practice hard,” Given said. “We have to remember we were the team four years ago that could barely skate. We have to try our hardest.”