Head coach Jim Creamer thinks his Bishop Hendricken hockey team is at its best when it’s busy and in rhythm. He’ll soon get his wish, with the Hawks scheduled to begin a stretch of five games in eight days on Friday.
Before that, though, the Hawks had to battle through their most uneven week of the season – and they were happy to survive it.
Coming off a week of practice that was interrupted by two snow days, the Hawks hosted Hamden, Conn., on Friday at Thayer Arena, fell behind 3-1 but scored five unanswered goals to win 6-3.
“We had a choppy week with the snow days,” Creamer said. “We’re better when we’re going on a regular basis. I just didn’t like the way we were playing. We just weren’t going, but it was nice to see the kids come back. I was really happy with how we did in the last three minutes of the second period. We came out in the third and I thought we played much better.”
The match-up with Hamden is one of two out-of-state games for the Hawks that count toward the league standings. With the victory, Hendricken improved to 8-2-1. Hamden stayed on Rhode Island ice Saturday and lost 4-2 to Mount St. Charles.
The Mounties lead Division I with a 10-1 record, but they’ve also played two more games than the Hawks.
For Hendricken, getting the win Friday was crucial for keeping pace.
And early on, it didn’t look promising.
The Green Dragons got a power play goal from Anthony Rascati less than two minutes into the game to take a 1-0 lead. The Hawks answered on a goal by Chris Shalvey with an assist to Brandon Waterman, but they found themselves behind again early in the second period. Just as a Hamden power play expired, the Green Dragons got a goal from Samuel Carignan to take a 2-1 lead with 13:41 left in the second period.
“I don’t think we played great,” Creamer said. “It’s a credit to Hamden – they sort of forced our hand there. We got down on those two penalties.”
And it only got worse for the Hawks. With 4:14 left in the second period Jeremy Routh scored on an odd-man rush to give Hamden a 3-1 lead.
“We were sort of on our heels,” said Hendricken senior Liam Watkinson.
But the period wasn’t over – and the Hawks made the rest of it count. With 2:21 left, Hamden’s Michael DeMatteis was whistled for a penalty. Just 10 seconds into the power play, Steven Dumond buried a slap shot to make it 3-2.
“That was our second power play unit and they did a nice job,” Creamer said. “Steven got a good shot to the net and Brandon Mitchell did a good job screening. That got us going.”
With 43 seconds left in the period, the Hawks struck again. Patrick Creamer skated into the zone and got the puck to Jamie Armstrong in the slot. He slipped it to Brandon Mitchell on the right, and Mitchell swept in an easy goal to tie the game.
Hamden had a chance just eight seconds later, but Hendricken goalie Matt Kenneally stopped a point-blank shot by Carignan and the teams went to the locker room tied 3-3.
In the third period, the Hawks carried the action better but Jim Creamer felt they weren’t getting enough shots to the net.
“We need to throw the puck at the net, play a little ugly,” he said. “We don’t score a lot of pretty, pretty goals. We’re better off when we muck it up a little bit.”
Soon enough, they were crashing it.
With 5:20 left, Josh Olson slipped a pass from behind the net to Watkinson, who had space in front and beat Chris Feldman to give Hendricken its first lead of the game.
“I was just trying to get to the front of the net and trust my linemates,” Watkinson said. “Olson got there, [Jonathan] Finelli got the hit on. They saw me in front and I banged it home.”
With 1:26 left, the Hawks added some insurance on a goal from Finelli. Watkinson assisted. Andrew Fera tacked on an empty-net goal in the final seconds.
Kenneally finished with 22 saves for the Hawks.
“We played a lot better in the third period,” Creamer said. “Not just scoring goals, but we were getting more chances, skating better.”
The result was a solid victory.
“Hamden is well-coached and they play you hard all the time,” Creamer said. “Some years they’re better than others, but that’s the effort you get from them all the time. They’re tough to play against. They would do well in our league.”
Hendricken has now won three straight since a surprising loss to Smithfield on Jan. 24. The upcoming busy stretch will do a lot for determining where the Hawks end up in the final standings. They’ll play Coventry and Cranston West over the weekend before playing Mount St. Charles next Tuesday at 5:30 p.m. at Thayer Arena, in a game that was postponed from earlier in the year. The Hawks will play Mount twice in its final five games.
“Starting next Friday, we play five in eight days,” Creamer said. “That’ll be a big stretch. We’ll have to get after it.”