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Lady Titans back on track with 6-1 win over Cranston
KELSEY HOLMES

The Cranston co-op girls’ hockey team kept its game with Warwick scoreless through the first 12 minutes on Friday night, but it always seemed like a matter of time before the Titans seized control.

Sure enough, Warwick broke through in a big way. With just over two minutes to play in the first period, it got on the board and added another one less than a minute later. That was just the beginning, as the Titans easily rolled to a 6-1 victory behind four goals from sophomore Madison Balutowski.

Cranston fell to 0-4 with the loss, although it did rebound to pick up its first win of the season on Saturday with a 4-1 victory over Smithfield/North Smithfield/Coventry. Warwick, which was coming off its only loss of the season last week in a 3-2 defeat to Burrillville/Ponaganset, improved to 3-1 with the win.

“(The loss has) been sitting on us,” Warwick head coach Dave Tibbetts said. “It was a tough loss to take when it happened. They were anxious. There’s only one game this weekend, so we put everything into tonight. Get two points and have some fun.”

Warwick dominated possession, putting 59 shots on Cranston goalie Abbey Torres, compared to the 12 shots that Cranston was able to put on Warwick goaltender Erin Vermilye.

Torres was a bright spot – even with the six goals allowed –as she did make 53 saves. Without her, the game might have gotten away from Cranston right from the start.

“Obviously Abbey played amazing,” Cranston head coach Ashley Pagliarini said. “The score could have been a lot worse. 53 saves – I can’t ask for much more out of the kid than that. She’s a great leader and played awesome for us.”

There was little Torres could do on either of Warwick’s first two goals. The Lady Titans put 19 shots on her in the first period, but it was a strange one that finally found the net. Makenzie Driscoll teed up a shot from the low slot and didn’t connect cleanly, sending the puck into the air. It came down off of a Cranston defender near the net and slipped by Torrres, who grabbed it just after it crossed the line.

Forty-six seconds later, Kelsey Holmes darted up the right side with the puck before centering it. The ball hit another Cranston defender and rolled toward the far post, where Balutowski pushed it in for a 2-0 lead. Alyssa Mathews also had an assist.

“Coming off the loss, it really put a chip on our shoulder,” Balutowski said. “We wanted to come back and prove that we’re a good team. No good team loses two games in a row, so our goal was to come back in practice and work our hardest.”

The Titans didn’t take very long to tack on another one. Less than two minute into the second period, they went on a power play and Balutowski registered another goal when she smacked home her own rebound after Warwick fired three separate shots on Torres. Holmes was credited with her second assist.

“We were much sharper than last week,” Tibbetts said. “We had pretty good breakouts, we skated pretty well.”

The score remained 3-0 into the third period – despite 22 second-period shots from Warwick – and Cranston finally got on the board early in the third.

On a counter-attack, Bella Balsalmo skated to a loose puck in the neutral zone, advanced it toward Vermilye and then beat her to the right side. That made it 3-1, and the Thunderbirds looked like they might be back in the game. Erin Ferguson got the assist.

“We thought we would get a little momentum back with that goal,” Pagliarini said.

But less than a minute later, Ellis put a shot on Torres that went up in the air on the rebound. It landed behind the goalie, and Savannah Hersey poked it in to make it 4-1 and kill Cranston’s momentum.

“Between periods we said that 3-0 is a dangerous score because a lucky bounce or a power play, and the other team gets some momentum and is right back in the game,” Tibbetts said. “When they did get the goal, we made a point to try to get it right back.”

That essentially secured the victory. Cranston did get a power play soon after, but Vermilye held strong in net and ended up making five saves in the period.

“It is difficult to stay focused in a game like that,” Vermilye said, of only facing 12 shots. “It’s one of the hardest games a goalie can play. But that just makes you work extra hard to stay focused and stay in it.”

Warwick put the icing on the cake with two more late goals. Balutowski scored her third of the night shorthanded when she received the puck near center-ice from Vermilye and took it in for a breakaway goal. Two minutes later, she scored her fourth goal when Holmes sent a pass through the crease to the far post and Balutowski one-timed it in.

Holmes ended the game with three assists, while Meaghan Sullivan, Abi Given, Marianna Brawn, Mathews, Ellis, Natasha Savage and Vermilye all finished with one.

“I thought we were kind of slow at the beginning, but then we started to pick it up,” Driscoll said.

Warwick is currently behind only Bay View in the DeCosta Division standings, but will have a tough weekend coming up. The Titans will host Mount St. Charles on Friday at 6:30 p.m., at Thayer Arena, and then will host La Salle the next night at 8 p.m.

Warwick has already beaten La Salle, the two-time defending state champion, by a 6-0 score this season.

After that, it’s a game on New Years Day against Bay View at 7:30 p.m., at Levy Rink.

“Our most important thing we’re trying to stress is defensive goals against, keeping the other team off the board,” Tibbetts said. “We’re going to get opportunities to score in most games at some point, so our goals against is really important to us. We want to be a good defensive team. Everyone plays two-way hockey.”


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