The first-seeded and defending champion Pilgrim Patriots were beaten by the second-seeded West Warwick/Exeter-West Greenwich Knights – Wizards co-op 4-2 in Game 3 of the Boys Division III Hockey Championship at Boss Ice Arena at URI on Tuesday.
WW/EWG was topped by Liam Hogan, a senior and assistant captain, who earned the Monsignor Robert C. Newbold MVP Award.
Hogan recorded two goals plus an assist in Game 3, while his teammate Matt Dennison, a sophomore, registered a goal and two assists.
The Pilgrim defeat ended its bid for a three-peat and gave WW/EWG, who won the title against the Pats three years ago, back the crown.
“It was a great up-and-down series,” Pilgrim head coach Mike Boyajian Sr. said. “Nothing was one way in this final, and I think these two hockey teams are very skilled, very evenly matched, and they just came out on top, and that’s all.”
Boyajian loved the fight his players brought all season long and wants them to hold their heads high instead of hanging them.
“We’re not disappointed in our effort at all,” Boyajian said. “Our guys laid it all on the line and we got beat. And that’s a good team we lost to, and well-deserved for them. No question.”
Pilgrim sophomore goalie Dylan Cunetta made 25 saves during the contest, while Kevin Macdonald, also a sophomore, made 33 for the Knights-Wizards.
“Their goalie played very well for them, made some big saves throughout,” Boyajian said. “And he was hot coming in. He did it all through the playoffs and he stayed hot.”
The first goal of the game came with 1:18 remaining in the first period when Hogan lit the lamp after an assist from Dennison.
Hogan returned the favor with 8:28 left in the second period when he assisted to Dennison out of a faceoff in the Pilgrim zone, and then the sophomore forward fired a wrister into the back of the net and extended the WW/EWG buffer to 2-0.
Less than two minutes later, the Pats cut the deficit in half at 2-1 when freshman forward Charles Clements scored a goal in front after an assist from Dylan Gallagher, a senior forward.
However, with 10:40 remaining in the final frame, WW/EWG earned some distance at 3-1 when Ethan Laramee, a junior, registered a tally after an assist from Rob Paquette, a senior.
A little over four minutes later, the Knights-Wizards extended their cushion to 4-1 after Hogan scored his second goal following an assist from Dennison.
AJ Sherlock, a senior forward, drew the Pats within 4-2 with 4:43 to play when he secured a breakaway tally after an assist from James Cook, a junior defenseman, and that’s how it would end.
It was the fourth consecutive D-III Championship appearance for the Pats and the third consecutive against WW/EWG.
“We’re proud of our guys,” Boyajian said. “Even down 4-1, to make that 4-2, they just kept coming at it. I’m just proud of our team for getting there four years in a row. Sometimes you can’t win them all, but we’re proud of them. We played solidly.”
Pilgrim will lose five seniors to graduation in Driscoll, Sherlock, Gallagher, Chris Quirk, and Eric Stevens.
“We’re going to miss our senior group, a great group of guys,” Boyajian said. “Just wonderful kids. They are fortunate enough and I tell them in there, ‘people play sports their entire life, sometimes three sports in high school and never get to go to a state championship, and they got to go to four of them.’ ”
“So, that’s outstanding for them and that shows how hard they worked their four years to be part of the team as a freshman, and then all the way through their senior year, and still have that drive and determination to get there.”
The Pats wish to return to the Championship series for a fifth straight season next year to try and earn back the title.
“We hope,” Boyajian said. “Let’s see what comes in for next year and we’ll just keep on pushing and see where the results bring us with the new kids coming in.”