One game was more lopsided than expected, the other much closer. But when the week was over, the Warwick co-op girls’ hockey team had gotten back on track and done exactly what it needed to do to keep pace in the hotly-contested Emma Division race.
In their first action since a Feb. 1 loss to La Salle, the Lady Titans rolled past third-place Bay View 5-0 on Wednesday night then got a battle from the South County co-op on Friday at Benny Magiera Memorial Ice Rink but held on for a 5-3 victory.
Warwick now leads a race that has the top four teams separated by four points. The Titans have 22, La Salle is second with 21, Bay View is third with 19 and Burrillville/Ponaganset is fourth with 18.
That’s why a two-win week was just what the Titans needed.
“Every game is huge,” assistant coach Ryan Henderson said after Friday’s win. “If we had lost this game tonight, we would have seriously jeopardized our seeding for the playoffs. We know where we want to be and we know what we’re capable of. We’ve got to come out and win these games.”
The Titans have two league games remaining. Thanks to the victories last week, they’ve put themselves in position to be no worse than the No. 2 seed if they win out. La Salle still has three games remaining. If both teams win out, the Rams would end up with a one-point edge on the Titans.
For now, Warwick is focusing on what it can control – and a big week was the result. Against Bay View, the Titans scored four power-play goals and got a 13-save shutout from Gabriella Dicomitis to post the 5-0 victory. In two previous games with the Bengals, Warwick won by a total of three goals.
Madison Balutowski scored twice and chipped in an assist. Abby Ellis had a goal and two assists, with Kelsey Holmes and Meaghan Sullivan scoring one goal each. Jaime Given and Savannah Smith also had assists.
“You could just feel the enthusiasm,” Henderson said. “We shut them down and it was awesome. Everything was clicking.”
The Titans had gone 11 days without a game since the loss to La Salle. They were eager to rebound.
“We just motivated ourselves,” Ellis said. “We were in a slump, but once we realized it, we motivated ourselves. We were really pumped up.”
On Friday, the Titans held senior night festivities before the game, honoring Given and Katherine Roberti. They seemed well on their way to celebrating in style when Balutowski buried a wrist shot just 1:39 into the game.
But for the rest of the first period and most of the second, the lead never grew. Then, with 3:31 left in the second, South County tied the game on a power-play goal by Brooke McGreen.
While South County has been solid in the DeCosta Division with a 7-5-3 mark, Warwick didn’t expect to be in a 1-1 tie heading to the locker room.
“We came into the locker room and kind of stopped everything and started from scratch,” Henderson said. “We said, ‘Are you having fun?’ They said, ‘Not really.’ We play our best hockey when we’re having fun. We kind of redirected them and went that way. You could see it on the ice.”
Warwick started the third with 1:36 still left on a power play, and they quickly took advantage. After getting control behind the net, Balutowski circled around and scored on a left-handed wrist shot from the right circle to make it 2-1.
Once again, though, South County came back. With 7:55 left, McGreen scored again, this time on a rebound, to tie the game.
“We definitely came out slow, but we realized we needed to win this,” Ellis said.
And the Titans made sure they did.
With 6:13 left in the third period, South County picked up a cross-checking penalty. The Titans took a timeout before a face-off in the zone and set up a play.
Then they executed it.
Savannah Hersey skated into the high-slot and slipped a pass to Ellis on the left post. She found Given in front, and Given pushed the puck past South County goalie Emily Edwards for the go-ahead goal.
“Everyone knew where they needed to be,” Holmes said. “We executed what coach told us to do.”
South County pulled Edwards for a face-off in its offensive zone at the 1:43 mark. The Titans didn’t allow a shot on net, and 26 seconds later, Ellis stole the puck on the boards, skated to open space and pushed the puck into the net for a game-clinching empty-net goal.
The Titans celebrated.
“We want it,” said Dicomitis, who made 17 saves. “We want to win states and we know what we need to do to get there, game-by-game.”
Now the Titans want to take two more right steps. They’ll play Burrillville/Ponaganset on Friday at 8:30 p.m., at the Smithfield Rink. On Saturday, they’ll finish the regular season with an 8 p.m. game against Mount St. Charles at Warburton Rink.
“The focus is on finishing as strong as we started,” Henderson said. “We started the year off great and we want to get back to that. We haven’t peaked yet, regardless of what the standings say. We’re waiting for that and I think we’re getting ready to start our run.”