Armed with a chance to close out their first-ever playoff series win, the Warwick girls’ hockey team played well enough to do just that on Saturday.
And if it wasn’t for Bengals goaltender Britney Evangelista, the Lady Titans might have gotten it done. Instead, the Bengals lived to see another day.
Evangelista stopped numerous Warwick scoring chances – including a handful of breakaways – and made 27 saves, as Bay View avoided elimination with a 3-0 victory in the second game of the state semifinals.
Warwick won the first game 1-0 on Friday night, setting up a winner-take-all third game at Thayer Arena scheduled for Monday night. Results of the deciding game were unavailable at press time, but can be found in the Thursday edition of the Warwick Beacon and online Tuesday at warwickonline.com.
In the other semifinal series, La Salle defeated Burrillville/Ponaganset two games to none, advancing the top-seeded Rams to the state championship series.
Number-two seeded Warwick would like to join them there, but Saturday’s game wasn’t the ticket.
“Their backs were to the wall,” said Warwick head coach Dave Tibbetts after game two. “They have eight seniors playing for their last game of their career. We knew it wasn’t going to be easy. Last night was a tough game, too. We knew they were going to come out and give us their best effort.”
Warwick out-shot the third-seeded Bengals 27-19, and was very much in the game before Bay View scored twice in the final 1:09 of the third period, including an empty-netter with 25 seconds to play that officially sealed the deal.
The Lady Titans just couldn’t get a puck past Evangelista. She stoned Kelsey Holmes on a good look from the left circle halfway through the first period, then turned aside Abby Ellis on a backhand shot from just outside the crease on the left with 3:20 to play in the period.
Warwick out-shot Bay View 8-5 in the first period, but the Bengals still managed to take the lead. With 1:52 left, Bay View’s Devan Miller won a puck battle in the corner and sent a pass to Alexandra Scala near the right post. Scala moved from right to left across the goal and tried to backhand the puck in, but Warwick goalie Gabriella Dicomitis made a sprawling pad save. The rebound, however, went right back to Scala, who flipped it up over Dicomitis’ pad and into the net for a 1-0 lead.
“We know what kind of battle we’re going to be in for,” Tibbetts said.
The second period got off to a promising start for the Lady Titans, who went on a power play just over a minute in. Holmes again got a good look, which Evanglista saved and then Evangelista denied Ellis on a hard slap shot from the high slot. Bay View eventually killed the penalty.
Three minutes later, Warwick went on another power play, but Evangelista made saves on Madison Balutowski and Ellis to keep Warwick scoreless.
“We had a lot of good chances, we just weren’t able to capitalize on any of them,” Tibbetts said of the power play. “But we’re happy with the way we’re moving the puck and keeping it most of the time in the offensive zone. Eventually it’s going to go in.”
Over the final five minutes of the period, Balutowski got loose on two full breakaways and a third where she gained some separation from the defense at the last second and got a clean look.
Twice she narrowly missed the net, while a third time Evangelista was there for a pad save.
“They have a really good goalie, and she’s played well,” Tibbetts said.
Warwick got some standout goaltending of its own early in the third, when Dicomitis turned away a breakaway opportunity from Scala, and then Dicomitis helped kill off a penalty with two saves on slap shots from Alexandria Rodi.
That performance helped keep Warwick within striking distance, but it didn’t end up making a difference. The Lady Titans had two power plays in the period, and couldn’t capitalize.
Then, with 1:09 left and Warwick pressing while it looked for the equalizer, Bay View got an important second goal. Katherine Schreck put a shot on Dicomitis, and the rebound went out to the high slot where Scala was waiting. She took a wrist shot and scored high for a back-breaking goal.
Forty-four seconds later, Schreck added the empty-netter, setting up Monday’s showdown.
“I’m happy with the way we played,” Tibbetts said. “We were pretty disciplined throughout the game. It was pretty physical again tonight. We have a real positive mood right now.”
In the first game of the series, Warwick out-shot Bay View 16-2 in the first period and then 12-4 in the second period, but couldn’t get a puck past Evangelista until the final 1:30 of the second, when senior Jaime Given put Warwick on top.
“Jaime Given’s goal was a wraparound,” Tibbetts said. “She just kept forcing it. The ref was right here in perfect position. The goalie slid over and couldn’t quite get the post. She had a little bit, but Jaime kept pushing. It was nice to see our senior captain get the game-winner.”
Bay View made a charge in the third period, as the teams each put seven shots on goal, but Dicomitis preserved the shutout with a stop on a breakaway, lifting Warwick to victory. For the game, the Lady Titans out-shot the Bengals 35-13.
Now, whether or not they play again this weekend or see their season end depends strictly on Monday.
“We’ve had a little bit of a chip on our shoulder for different reasons, and now it’s back,” Tibbetts said. “Now it’s time to basically get the job done.”