Over the last year or so, the Hendricken hockey team has done something very rare for any team – the Hawks have had Mount St. Charles’s number.
On Saturday, the Mounties exacted some revenge.
After Hendricken defeated Mount in last year’s state championship series and then won the teams’ first meeting this year, 4-0, on Jan. 5, Mount used a dynamic first two periods and a late empty-net goal to knock off formerly unbeaten Hendricken 3-1.
The Hawks stayed in first place but dropped to 9-1 in Division I-Cimini, as Mount closed the gap between the two teams by improving to 7-2.
“I think they certainly deserved to win,” Hendricken head coach Jim Creamer said. “They were the better team for two periods. They certainly out-worked us in the first 30 minutes. Without good goaltending, we wouldn’t have survived. Credit to them.”
Both teams were coming off big wins on Friday night. Mount, which had lost 2-0 to Coventry two weekends ago, rebounded with an 8-0 victory over Burrillville. Hendricken, meanwhile, got goals from Ed Markowski, Dakota Hersey and Andrew Fera and held off La Salle for a 3-2 victory.
It set up a marquee showdown on Saturday. Right from the start, the Mounties were ready. Even playing without standout Brian Belisle, who has been out since the first league game of the season with a concussion, Mount was the aggressor.
“When you’re playing someone as good as Hendricken, if you don’t dictate the play early they’ll take advantage and just bury you,” Mount coach Dave Belisle said. “We did. We had some great opportunities and we didn’t score in the first period, but we were encouraged by our efforts.”
In that first period, Mount put 18 shots on Hendricken goalie Mitch Proulx, but Proulx – who has allowed just 10 goals all season and leads D-I with a .950 save percentage – turned each one of them aside.
The Hawks managed just three shots on Mount goalie Brian Larence in the first.
“It was a good game last night, but Mount just out-worked us for the first 30 minutes tonight,” Creamer said. “It’s sort of as simple as that.”
With the game still scoreless, Mount finally turned some of its opportunities into goals in the second period. With 5:57 left in the period, and the Mounties still firmly in control, Keegan O’Leary crossed Hendricken’s blue line with the puck and then tried to drop it off for a teammate behind him.
Instead, the puck redirected off a Hawks’ player, who couldn’t stop in time to get a stick on the puck. It bounced out to the slot, where Vincent Pearl skated in and wristed it into the bottom left of the net for a goal.
“This game, we were more prepared, knowing what they had done to us before,” Belisle said. “It was a great win for us.”
Less than a minute later, Mount added to its lead. With the Hawks making a line change, the Mounties found themselves in a 4-on-2 situation and Daniel Glod carried the puck hard onto the net, where it was knocked away to the left post. Waiting there wide-open was Patrick Holmes, and he flipped a shot in for a 2-0 lead.
“Even the two goals they got we just over-skated a puck in the slot, and the other one was just a horrible change – we gave them a four on two,” Creamer said. “But, for as badly as we played, we were still in it.”
The Hawks went on a power play with 1:18 left in the second, but couldn’t get anything past Larence. To start the third, Mount killed off the rest of the power play, its second flawless penalty kill of the day.
“We’ve got to move the puck a little bit better, and we had a couple decent chances (on the power play),” Creamer said. “When it’s effective, it’s moving. We didn’t move it very well tonight.”
But the Hawks still seemed to have found their footing.
They dictated play for much of the period, and then got on the board with 2:39 to play. Garrett Quillen back-handed a shot on Larence, and he had to sprawl to make the save. The puck went out to the right and Tucker Alberigo flicked it into the open goal to cut the deficit in half.
“For the last 15, I thought we came out and did what we had to do,” Creamer said. “We hung in there until the end. I give the kids a lot of credit for how they played the last 15. Just a little too little too late.”
With 1:45 to play, the Hawks found themselves in prime position to tie the score. Mount was whistled for a penalty, giving Hendricken a power play for the remainder of the game. When they pulled Proulx with just under a minute left, they had a 6-on-4 advantage.
But Mount wouldn’t budge. Larence saved two slap shots from Alberigo and another from Matt Creamer, and the Mounties kept the Hawks from many other chances. With 14 seconds left, the puck squirted out of the zone and Holmes was the first skater to it. With no one in front of him, he shot the puck from Hendricken’s blue line into the empty net to finish the Hawks’ comeback plans.
“Once they got that goal it was a totally different story,” Belisle said. “They really started to swarm us. Now, we get a penalty. But it was a great kill.”
For the game, Larence saved 17 of 18 shots in net, while Proulx saved 33 of the 35 shots he faced.
“[Larence] played outstanding,” Belisle said. “So did Mitch down at the other end. Both goalies played great tonight. Mitch kept them in it, then my guy kept us ahead.”
The two teams won’t have to wait very long to see each other again, as Hendricken will travel to Mount’s Adelard Arena for the third and final regular season match-up between the two this Friday at 9 p.m.
After that, the Hawks will be tested again when they take on Xavier High School of Connecticut at Thayer on Saturday at 6 p.m. That game will count as a league match-up.
And then, the following Friday, the Hawks will play La Salle again.
“I think we’ll look at it and it’s a tough stretch,” Jim Creamer said. “But it’s a good time of the year to be playing it.”