Last season, the Warwick and Cranston girls’ hockey teams were battling each other for the final playoff spot. Warwick got that spot thanks in large part to two hard-fought victories over the Cranston squad, the first a 3-2 overtime win and the second a 3-1 victory.
With a veteran club, Warwick is thinking bigger this year.
The results of a weekend set against Cranston are another sign that the Lady Titans have every right to be thinking big.
Warwick blitzed Cranston for a 6-0 victory on Friday at Thayer Arena then capped the solid weekend with a 6-4 win over Cranston on Sunday in Smithfield.
“There are a few areas of our game that we still need to work on, but overall, we’re playing well,” head coach Dave Tibbetts said after Friday’s win. “This was good to see. Last year, we were kind of neck-and-neck with them for the last playoff spot. It was nice to see a really good performance tonight. Hopefully, this can separate us from the pack a little bit.”
The victories improved Warwick to 5-2. Its only losses have come against Bay View and La Salle, who are in the Emma Division, the higher of two D-I subdivisions. Warwick is now just a game behind the Barrington/Mt. Hope/Portsmouth co-op for first place in the DeCosta Division.
Heading into the weekend, the Titans knew they’d be in for a challenge. They were coming off a 2-0 loss to La Salle, and they were facing an improved Cranston team whose co-op now includes East Greenwich. The Thunderbirds came in with a 2-2 record and had lost to Barrington/Mt. Hope/Portsmouth by just a 2-0 score.
But Warwick was up for the challenge – and then some.
The Titans out-shot Cranston 11-2 in the first period and lit the lamp with 4:25 left on a goal by Emily Fox. Julianna Mollo had the assist.
In the second period, Warwick really surged.
Cranston picked up a penalty with 5:37 left, and 43 seconds later, Abby Ellis took a pass from Fox on the breakaway and buried a shot for the 2-0 lead.
Just 49 seconds later, Warwick struck again. Ellis slipped a pass from behind the net to Claudia Collins, who punched in a shot to make it 3-0.
Then, 28 seconds later, Fox made a short crossing pass to Casey McCormick, who tucked a shot inside the post for the 4-0 lead.
“I was really impressed actually,” said Collins, a senior. “Last year when we played them, we had a close game – 3-2 in overtime. We kind of blew them out of the water this time. I was really excited about it.”
The key to the second-period surge was a slight adjustment. Though Warwick had the edge in shots it wasn’t breaking through for most of the period.
“We were just kind of coming down and shooting the puck,” Tibbetts said. “We realized we had to work around the net better, and that’s what we did.”
The Titans made it 5-0 on McCormick’s second goal of the night, which came just 23 seconds into the third period. Jaime Given scored with 1:42 left in the game for the final margin.
“We’ve improved so much since last year, so I wasn’t surprised,” said senior Jaime Claeson. “Some people didn’t expect it, but I knew what we could do. It was good.”
Fox led the Titans with three assists, while McCormick and Ellis tallied two assists each. Given and Savannah Hersey each had one assist.
In addition to the offensive outburst, the Titans got a good performance in goal from sophomore Arielle Frank. A forward last year, Frank moved to goalie this season and is one of three Titans pushing for time. Friday was her first full game in net, and she ended up with a shutout.
“I was really, really nervous and I was in a bad mood all day, but it all worked out,” Frank said. “It’s really exciting.”
In Sunday’s rematch, the Titans got a tougher test from the Thunderbirds but still found a way to come out on top. After taking an early lead, the Titans fell behind 3-2 in the second period and 4-3 in the third. But Mollo, McCormick and Ellis scored three unanswered goals to seal the 6-4 victory.
Fox had another big game for the Titans, scoring three goals and dishing out two assists to finish the weekend with four goals and five assists. Collins added two assists in Sunday’s game, while Ellis, Hannah McGuirl and Jacqueline Lyman had one each.
The Titans will return to action with a tough doubleheader this weekend. They’ll play two-time defending state champ Mount St. Charles on Friday at 9:30 p.m. at the West Warwick Civic Center before taking on Barrington/Mt. Hope/Portsmouth on Saturday at 9:30 p.m. at Lynch Arena in Pawtucket.