The Hendricken-La Salle hockey state title series was even more entertaining than anticipated over the weekend.
When all was said and done, the Hawks completed their sweep of the Rams behind a pair of game-winning goals from the state’s leading scorer, Pat Creamer, giving Hendricken its second consecutive championship.
It certainly wasn’t easy. Until the final buzzer, La Salle was just a goal away from getting back in the series.
On Friday night, a back-and-forth game ended up going into double overtime.
Ultimately, Creamer gave Hendricken a 1-0 series lead when he buried a rebound off a Matt Rickard shot on a man advantage to send the Hawks home with a 5-4 victory.
On Saturday evening, the Hawks took a 1-0 edge into the third period, before La Salle’s Matt Ernster capitalized on a turnover, finishing a chance all alone in front.
But, Creamer once again had the answer 23 seconds later.
Andrew Hopgood drove towards the net with a defender on him, and he was able to leave the puck behind him to a wide open Creamer, who deked and slid a shot by La Salle sophomore netminder Justin Spencer to push the Hawks back out in front for good.
The Rams pulled Spencer looking for the equalizer in the final minute, but Hopgood got loose late and potted an empty-netter to seal the victory.
“It was just a total team effort,” Creamer, who was named the series MVP for the second year in a row, said following the Game 2 victory. “I put the goals in, but we have a great goalie. Pat (Gribbin) stopped a penalty shot. Andrew (Hopgood) and Mike (DiMascolo) have been playing well all year. Our third line contributed. Our second line played great, and our D were shut down all game.”
First-period goals from DiMascolo and Jax Zaroogian in Game 1 got the Hawks out to a quick start in the series, but Logan Liljeberg took advantage of a Hendricken defensive zone turnover to get the Rams on the board before the period was up.
Rams’ captain Drew Edwards then netted the game-tying goal early in the second period when he buried a loose puck in the crease on the power play.
And, after Hendricken responded with goals from Creamer and Matt Dumond in the middle of the second period, Edwards struck once again with 24 seconds remaining in the second frame when he redirected a shot past Gribbin to trim La Salle’s deficit to one, 4-3, after two periods.
Ernster had the lone tally in the third period to tie the game at 4 and force overtime.
In the first overtime, Edwards nearly completed his hat trick when he rang iron on the power play after Hendricken defenseman Jacob Paolino was sent to the box for tripping.
La Salle had plenty of chances on that man advantage, but Rickard and Creamer blocked shot after shot. Rickard looked like he was in some discomfort after blocking one of the shots, but he was able to muster enough strength to force a turnover and clear, which drew a loud roar from the Hendricken crowd.
“Blocked shots always win games,” Rickard said. “You have to sacrifice for your boys.”
Hendricken got a power play chance of its own when Ernster was whistled for tripping 40 seconds into the second overtime period.
Creamer capitalized when he cleaned up Rickard’s shot close to the net to secure the series lead.
The Hawks kept their momentum going on Saturday, taking a first-period lead once again.
With 1:58 to go in the opening period, Cam Duprey slid a pass at the point over to Paolino, who wristed a shot that found its way over Spencer’s shoulder to make it 1-0.
La Salle’s best chance came in the second period when a Hendricken player covered the puck in his own crease, giving Ernster a penalty shot.
Gribbin stood tall, though, denying the chance to keep Hendricken in front.
“Patrick Gribbin did a great job in net,” Hendricken head coach Jim Creamer said. “He had great composure.”
However, Ernster would get a shot by Gribbin early in the third period to tie the game at 1 briefly.
But, Pat Creamer’s eventual game-winner 23 seconds later sent the Hawks to the peak of Rhode Island high school hockey once again.
“They’re a great group of kids and their work ethic is tremendous,” Jim Creamer said of his team. “We got better as the year went on. Our senior class is super solid, they’re good kids and good players. They’re all special. This is a good one.”