The Warwick girls’ hockey team got the best of two-time defending state champion La Salle in the early part of the season, but with only a handful of games left before the playoffs, the Rams have turned the tide.
On Saturday, La Salle’s Arianna Boscia scored four consecutive goals – including three in a dominant second period – as the Rams posted a 4-2 win over the Lady Titans at the Smithfield Municipal Rink.
After Warwick beat La Salle 6-0 on Dec. 7, La Salle has now won the season series two games to one thanks to a 3-1 win on Dec. 28 and the victory on Saturday.
“They’re a fantastic team,” said Warwick assistant coach Tom McCormick. “I think they’re right there with us as far as who can beat who on any given night. A bad break here, a penalty here, a power play goal and you can get it either way.”
The loss knocked Warwick out of first place for the first time in 2014. The Lady Titans are 9-4, as is La Salle, but the Rams have 19 points – by virtue of an overtime loss – while Warwick has 18 points. Burrillville is in third with 15 points, while Bay View has only four losses as well and sits in fourth place with 13 points.
It’s a wide-open race.
“Maybe this game motivates them a little more and they say, ‘Hey, we’re not as good as we think we are,’” McCormick said. “We need to get better. It’s going to motivate us on a daily basis. Hopefully that’s what happened here tonight.”
Saturday’s game started out well enough for the Titans, with Warwick striking late in a fairly even first period on a power play goal by Madison Balutowski. Kelsey Holmes assisted, making it 1-0 with less than a minute to play in the period.
Then La Salle came to life. Just 19 seconds after Balutowski’s goal, Boscia beat goalie Erin Vermilye to tie the score at one.
That was only the beginning. Warwick took a tripping penalty immediately after that goal, and La Salle’s power play carried over into the second period.
The Rams capitalized quickly. Thirty-two seconds in, Boscia got the puck near the crease on the left and stuffed it by Vermilye for a 2-1 lead.
“We took a couple bad penalties that cost us,” McCormick said. “When I thought we started moving our legs on our forecheck, our momentum got stopped by our penalties. Once we get it through our heads that penalties on us are momentum killer, we’ll become a better team.”
Just over three minutes later, Boscia gave La Salle some breathing room. After the Rams were whistled for offsides, they won the ensuing face-off in the neutral zone and Boscia skated the puck into the offensive zone. As soon as she crossed the blue line, she lifted a wrist shot into the top-left corner of the goal to make it 3-1.
“Once we start looking at small pieces of our game like taking penalties, turnovers, and you stop looking at the bigger picture and really focus on the details, that’s the way we’ll get better,” McCormick.
Warwick elected to switch goalies and put in Gabriella Dicomitis at that point, and she held off the Rams on another power play opportunity a few minutes later, but with 3:06 to play in the period Boscia made her presence felt again.
Michaela McNamara and Boscia broke out from behind their own goal, with McNamara carrying the puck into Warwick’s zone. She slipped a pass through the crease to Boscia who one-timed it past Dicomitis for a fourth consecutive goal.
Warwick went into the locker room trailing by a 4-1 margin. Still, the Lady Titans didn’t quit.
They got a shot by Caroline Henn on La Salle goalie Victoria Hartley early on, and Balutowski put another one on net from the left side with 11 minutes to play, only to be turned away.
With just under 10 minutes to play, Abby Ellis – who recently returned from a knee injury – took a pass on the right circle and one-timed a shot between the legs of Hartley to make it 4-2.
“Our kids have a lot of heart,” McCormick said. “We’re a very tough team, mentally. They gave A-plus effort in the third period. If we can get 45 minutes of that, we’ll be a better team for it.”
But it was too little, too late. Warwick got another opportunity at the six-minute park when Balutowski made a pass to Victoria LaFazia on the left, yet she couldn’t get much on the shot and it was turned away.
The comeback hopes also took a big hit when Ellis was sent to the box with 5:45 to play for roughing.
La Salle out-shot Warwick 23-11. The Lady Titans have now lost two of their last three league games, as they lost to Barrington 3-0 last Sunday before beating Mount St. Charles 6-4 last Wednesday.
They’ll have a little break to re-group, as they won’t take the ice for a game again until Wednesday, Feb. 12 against Bay View.
“We need more consistency, focus on details and we’ll become a better team,” McCormick said. “I don’t think we’re playing near the potential that we’re capable of.”