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WARWICK --- Lincoln picked up right where it left off last winter.
Owners of a magical 23-0-1 mark and the Division II championship a season ago, the Lions kicked off their title defense on the right foot on Friday night by topping the St. Raphael/Providence Country Day/Wheeler co-op team, 6-2, in their Division II-North opener at Thayer Arena.
It was a decent start to a promising year for the Lions, who graduated seven players from last seasonâ€™s team and are carrying an 18-man roster that has a return trip to the finals at Brown University atop their wish list this winter.
Senior forward Mike Enos matched his goal total from a year ago with a hat trick in the opening 15:17 of play, and classmate Aaron Fiske assisted on the Lionsâ€™ first four goals to help the Lions grab a 4-0 command before coasting the rest of the way to the victory, something that didnâ€™t thrill Lincoln coach Jim Riel afterwards.
â€śWe have the same goal this year that we had last year,â€ť said Riel. â€śWe want to play at Brown, and I think we have the potential to get there again. But if we play the way we did in the second and third [periods], it doesnâ€™t look like weâ€™ll get there.
â€śI thought we came out well in the first [period], but in the second and third, it looked like we lost some passion and I thought (SRA/PCD) outplayed us, and thatâ€™s not good enough for us this year. Weâ€™re going to have to move the needle a lot more this year than we had to last year. Weâ€™re going to have to get better and better every single week and every single game.â€ť
Before the small group of fans could get settled into the bleachers, Enos put the Lions on the board with a fluke goal 2:13 into play, and Lincoln doubled its lead at 5:31 when defenseman Matt Carmichael unleashed a slap shot that sailed through the pads of SRA goalie Brandon Gribbin (20 saves).
Enos made it 3-0 with 4:23 left in the opening period, when seconds after his team killed off a power play, he broke in alone on Gribbin and flipped a shot over his right shoulder. He then wasted little time netting his hat trick -- just 17 seconds into the second period -- as he buried a nice pass from Fiske.
â€śThat was good to see,â€ť Riel said of Enosâ€™s hat trick. â€śHe was a little [snake] bitten last year. He had a lot of chances, but he couldnâ€™t seem to put them in the net.â€ť
The co-op team finally got on the board with 6:40 to play in the period on a shorthanded goal by SRA junior Nathan Duffy, but the defending champions got that score back 4:26 into the final period on a power-play goal from co-captain Tyler Duquette.
Five seconds after that goal, the co-oppers responded with a goal by Wheeler junior Justin Katz, but the Lions netted the gameâ€™s final goal on an empty-netter by Ben Hevner with 17.9 seconds on the clock.
While Fiske savored his four-assist night, his twin brother, Derek Fiske, also assisted on the final two goals. They are back with the Lions after spending last season playing junior hockey.
Senior co-captain Griffin Hevey also set up a pair of goals, and junior goalie Chris Leclaire stopped 23 of the 25 shots he faced. The Lions only outshot their opponent by a 26-25 margin.
The Lions return to action tonight with another road game, a 7:30 p.m. affair at the Smithfield Ice Rink versus the Johnston/North Providence co-op team. That squad was winless a season ago in its first season in Division II.
Lincoln 3 â€“ 1 â€“ 2 â€“ 6
SRA co-op 0 â€“ 1 â€“ 1 â€“ 2
First period: L â€“ Michael Enos (Griffin Hevey, Aaron Fiske), 2:32; L â€“ Matt Carmichael (Aaron Fiske, Griffin Hevey), 5:31; L â€“ Michael Enos (Aaron Fiske, Mike Strain), 10:37. Penalty â€“ L, 1-2.
Second period: L â€“ Michael Enos (Aaron Fiske), :17; SRA â€“ Nathan Duffy (Patrick Flemming), shorthanded, 8:20; Penalties â€“ L, 2-6, SRA co-op, 2-4.
Third period: L â€“ Tyler Duquette (Derek Fiske, Michael Enos), power play, 10:34; SRA co-op â€“ Dylan Gastel (Justin Katz), 10:39; L â€“ Ben Hevner (Derek Fiske, Chris Leclerc), empty net, 14:42. Penalty â€“ L, 2-4, SRA co-op, 1-2.
Shots on goal: Lincoln 26, SRA co-op 25. Goalie saves: L â€“ Chris Leclaire (23 saves); SRA co-op â€“ Brandon Gribbin (20 saves).View more articles in: