The schedule hasn’t been kind to the Warwick Vets hockey team. After opening the season with an overtime loss to Scituate, the ’Canes played back-to-back games against unbeaten West Warwick/EWG then went up against contenders Ponaganset, Cranston East and East Providence. The result was an 0-6 start and some lopsided scores.
On Friday, the ’Canes finally got a break from the grind when they took on winless Woonsocket at Dennis Lynch Arena in Pawtucket. Though they couldn’t take full advantage of the opportunity, they left the ice feeling better than they have the last few weeks.
The ’Canes rallied from a 1-0 deficit with two third-period goals but saw the Novans tie the game late in the third. Vets settled for a 2-2 tie.
“I think we let one get away, but I’m still happy with a tie,” said assistant coach Dave Curtis. “The kids played really hard. They competed, and that’s all we’re asking for out of them.”
Before Friday, the ’Canes hadn’t been within striking distance for a full game since their season opener, a 4-3 loss to Scituate. They also hadn’t found the net since that game, and they started the new year with a 9-0 loss to East Providence last Tuesday.
For both Vets and Woonsocket, Friday’s match-up was a welcome change.
“It’s been tough,” Curtis said. “Unfortunately, at the level we’re at, there’s a higher end and then there’s a drop-off to the next group. When we get a chance to play the Scituates and Woonsockets, both teams have the chance to compete and get a victory. It’s great for both teams.”
After a scoreless first period, the Novans looked like they might be ready to seize the chance. With 6:08 left in the second period, Jonathan Flynn punched a shot into the net off a scramble in front to give Woonsocket the 1-0 lead.
For a Vets team that has struggled to score, even a one-goal deficit was a big one.
But it didn’t stop the ’Canes. They came out of the locker room and dominated the early part of the third period. Then, with 6:40 left, they finally broke through. Andrew Morrissette got loose on the right side and slid a shot into the net to tie the game. Oliver Pinheiro was credited with the assist.
Vets goalie John McNally saved a good shot by the Novans a minute later to keep the score tied, and the ’Canes soon struck again.
With 4:11 left, McNally cleared the puck to the neutral zone and caught Woonsocket in a line change. Morrissette carried the puck to the net and buried a shot to make it a 2-1 game.
“We came out hard in the third period and we got a couple of goals,” Curtis said. “I’m really happy for the kids. It was great to see.”
Unfortunately for the ’Canes, the lead didn’t stand up. With 2:17 left, a turnover at the blue line led to an open look for Steven Silva, who beat McNally to tie the score again.
The game then went to a five-minute overtime period, where Woonsocket carried the play. McNally made four saves in the period to keep the score tied. Vets had one good look on a shot by Joshua Ginaitt from the high slot with 1:19 left, but Woonsocket goalie Nicholas Beals made the stop.
Neither team had another chance, and they settled for the tie.
“Even though they didn’t get a win, they didn’t lose,” Curtis said. “They got a chance to play and compete, to skate with the puck and do some other things that we don’t get the opportunity to do against some of these other teams.”
McNally made 19 saves for the ’Canes and also had an assist on the second Morrissette goal. Beals saved 26 shots for Woonsocket.
The 28 shots Vets put on net were a season-high.
“From game one to now, I think the biggest improvement is now the kids are competing a little bit more,” Curtis said. “A lot of them don’t have a sports background. Now they’re starting to realize to get progress they need to compete. That’s what sports is about and they’re starting to get that inner drive, which is really key.”
The ’Canes will be in for a few more challenges in the coming weeks. Their next three opponents are second-place Tolman, Cranston East and Ponaganset.
“We want to keep working on the skill level of the guys, keeping their spirits up, having fun at practice,” Curtis said. “We want to show them if they work hard, they can get rewarded.”