Dave Tibbetts had heard how good Arlington Catholic was, but that was part of the appeal of scheduling a game with the Massachusetts power for his Warwick girls’ hockey team.
On Sunday, as part of the Andrew J. Gauthier Hockey Festival, Tibbetts and the Lady Titans got to see up close what all the hype was about.
It was warranted.
The 2012 Massachusetts state champion and 2013 runner-up, Arlington Catholic rolled four lines with ease and wore down Warwick, pulling away over the final period and a half for an 8-2 non-league victory.
The Lady Titans got a pair of goals from Madison Balutowski, but it just wasn’t enough to keep up with a high-powered Arlington Catholic squad.
“They were tough to match up with,” Tibbetts said. “They had four lines and it wasn’t too much of a drop-off after each line went out. I thought we competed as well as we could. We didn’t get as many scoring chances as we’re used to getting.”
The loss was the first one of the New Year for Warwick, which has won four consecutive league games and hadn’t tasted defeat since a Dec. 28 loss to La Salle.
At 8-2, Warwick is in first place in the Emma Division, but saw that there is always some room for improvement after Sunday.
“We were winning quite a few games in a row, and it’s kind of good to get set back a little bit and see that you have to improve your game in a few different areas, individually and as a team,” Tibbetts said.
Warwick was also playing without one of its top players and one of the top players in the state in defenseman Abby Ellis, who is sidelined with an injured knee.
“She obviously would have helped,” Tibbetts said. “It definitely would have helped on both sides of the scoreboard.”
The first period was competitive from the start, as the teams went back and forth in the early going until the 10:25 mark, when Arlington Catholic’s Jessica Piracini poked a puck past goaltender Gabriella Dicomitis on the left side of the crease after a perfect centering pass from Erin Healy.
The Lady Titans came right back, though, winning the next faceoff and forcing the puck deep before Balutowski knocked it in during a scrum in front.
“We wanted to see how we could match up against somebody from another state like that who is a powerful, well-known program,” Tibbetts said. “I think it was a big building block for us.”
Undeterred, Arlington Catholic started turning up the pressure. It controlled the second half of the period and got two more goals before the break. With 7:28 to play, Duggan Delano just threw a puck on net from the right circle that skipped through the legs of Dicomitis for a goal. Six minutes alter, Jacqueline Sindoris scored on a standout individual play, skating through the defense and around Dicomitis before depositing the puck in the left side of the goal.
“A couple of their goals were kind of lucky bounces that maybe couldn’t have went in,” Tibbetts said. “We also didn’t really get many chances. They certainly were the better team.”
In the second period, Arlington Catholic padded its lead with a fourth goal from a fourth different player, this one coming from Juliana Dolan with 9:31 to play in the period.
Three minutes after that, Warwick got a little momentum back on its side when Balutowski got the puck in the neutral zone and took off, speeding past Arlington Catholic’s defense and then scoring on goalie Katherine Crane to make it 4-2. It was Balutowski’s second unassisted goal of the game.
“I think we took a lot of positives out of it,” Tibbetts said. “We weren’t playing for points, we were playing for pride.”
The two-goal deficit was short-lived, however, as Arlington Catholic got another goal from Dolan just before the period ended, making it 5-2 with 15 minutes to play.
It didn’t get any better. Three minutes into the third, Adrieana Rossini scored a power play goal, and five minutes after that she added a short-handed goal. A power play goal by Bridget Crane with 5:27 left in the game finished up the scoring.
Dicomitis surrendered six goals in the game, while Erin Vermilye came on in the third period and let in the final two.
“(Arlington Catholic was) probably a step above what we have going on here for Division I,” Tibbetts said.
Warwick will re-group and get back to Rhode Island competition on Sunday, as it takes on Barrington/Mt. Hope/Portsmouth at the Portsmouth Abbey Rink at 4 p.m. Barrington is the only team in Rhode Island that Warwick hasn’t faced this season.
The Lady Titans will be trying to build on what they did and what they saw against Arlington Catholic.
“They did some stuff that we’ve been trying to do,” Tibbetts said. “It was good to see it from the bench and on the ice. We talked about that a lot during the game and after the game. They understood the lesson that was there to see.”