Burrillville/Ponaganset skates into finals
Senior captain Kelsey Koprusak scored two goals and set up two more in Burrillville/Ponagansetâs 4-0 win over North Smithfield Monday night.
BURRILLVILLE â The script from Monday nightâs Division I playoff game between the Burrillville/Ponaganset co-op team and North Smithfield read the same as the one from the previous two games of their best-of-three series.
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For the third straight game, the Broncos kept the majority of the action in the Northmenâs end of the rink and outshot them by a better than 3-to-1 ratio, and for the third straight game, N.S. goaltender Britney Evangelista frustrated the Broncos with another superb performance.
But the Broncos found a way to light the lamp and erase the disappointment from Saturday nightâs shootout defeat to the Northmen, and more importantly, they will be playing for the Division I championship this weekend.
Senior captain Kelsey Koprusak and freshman Maggie Reid each produced a pair of goals to overcome a 41-save effort by Evangelista and lift the Broncos to a 4-0 victory over their neighboring rivals at Levy Arena.
The Broncos will now turn their attention to dueling the East Bay (Barrington, Mount Hope, Portsmouth) co-op team, which claimed Game 3 of its best-of-three semifinal-round series with the Cranston co-op squad by a 5-3 score last night.
Game 1 of their best-of-three title series will take place on Saturday at a time to be announced at Providence Collegeâs Schneider Arena, while the second game is on the docket for Sunday at 3 p.m.. A third and deciding game will be held on Tuesday at a time to be announced.
It will be the Broncosâ first trip to a championship since the inaugural 2002-03 campaign of girlsâ hockey, when they dropped a 4-1 decision to Mount St. Charles in a winner-take-all showdown.
âOur girls came to play today,â said Burrillville coach Marc Brissette. âWe lost a tough game on Saturday, and I just told the girls, âWe know that weâre a strong team, and if we have patience with the puck and get it in deep and forecheck, then good things will happen,â and that certainly paid off.â
The defeat, meanwhile, erases a commendable season by the Northmen, who despite boasting one of the smallest rosters in the league (14 players), caught fire at the end of the season to earn a playoff berth.
âI couldnât be more proud of my kids,â admitted N.S. coach Bill Nangle. âWe knew this [series] was David vs. Goliath and Burrillville was the team to beat, and they werenât to be denied this year, so my hat goes off to them. Theyâre an awesome team and I wish them a lot of luck in the finals.â
Evangelista, who raised eyebrows throughout the state on Saturday night with her 88-save performance in the Northmenâs 2-1 victory, wrapped up the night with another high number of stops as the Broncos ruled the shots department by a 45-10 margin.
And she was at her best again in the early going, denying her opposition time and time again until the hosts made good on their 18th shot of the game.
With 20 seconds left in the first period, Reid scored the only goal the Broncos needed by taking a centering pass from Koprusak and blasting a shot that was just out of the reach of the webbing of Evangelistaâs glove.
Koprusak then doubled the Broncosâ lead with 2:48 left in the second period when she one-timed the rebound of a shot by Tiara Bianco past Evangelista, who kicked out Biancoâs shot, but right to a wide-open Koprusak in front of the net.
The wheels eventually came off the Northmenâs wagon in the third period, as Koprusak made it a 3-0 game by tipping home a pass from Jackie Keable, and 5Â˝ minutes later, Reid scored off a pass from Trista Cardone.
Koprusak also had an assist on that goal, and in Brissetteâs eyes, turned in an all-around exceptional performance.
âWe have a very young team and sheâs our only senior,â said Brissette. âShe and I had a little talk today about the game and I said, âYouâre going to lead us to victory,â and she did. From the first drop of the puck, she played a great game and she took the leadership role and ran with that with the girls.â
Broncos goalie Brittney Bebeau didnât need to make any flashy saves to post the shutout in net, but Evangelista, as she did throughout the series, made her share to keep her team in the game.
Evangelistaâs best stop of the night came 24 seconds before Koprusakâs first goal and it came on a partial breakaway by Teigan Palazini. She zipped past a Northmen defenseman and skated in alone of Evangelista, only to be denied by a stick save from the sophomore goalie.
âSheâs unbelievable,â said Nangle. âThe kid is a gamer, and when the lights come on and she sees the fans in the stands, she just turns on the juice and she plays like a champion. Itâs an awful lot of fun to have a kid like that on your team.â