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WARWICK â Burrillville did everything in its power to beat heavily favored Bishop Hendricken on Friday night in the opening game of their best-of-three State Championship semifinal-round series at Thayer Arena.
The fourth-seeded Broncos turned in one of their best efforts of the season, an effort that saw them play a penalty-free game with the regular-season champs and match their physical play and defensive prowess, but in the end, the hosts took advantage of a couple of breaks to come out on top, 4-2.
David Mitchellâs goal on a 2-on-1 break with Paul Filippone 1:06 into the last period turned out to be the deciding goal that moved the Hawks (15-3-1) one win away from a trip to the championship series.
The Broncos (13-6) will try to extend the series to the limit in tonightâs Game 2 of the series at 7 p.m. at what promises to be a full house at Levy Arena. If Burrillville wins this game, both teams will be back at Thayer on Monday for a deciding Game 3.
âI couldnât be more proud of my guys,â noted Burrillville coach Steve Daigle, whose team were outshot, 22-17. âThey came out, they moved the puck, they played very well on defenseâŠ I really canât say enough.
âI really feel like (Hendricken) knew we were going to be up for them, and I think their players by the end of the first period realized they were going to be in for a fight. It wasnât going to be an easy battle with us.â
The Hawks scored their first two goals of the contest on the rebound of a shot in the first period and a deflection of another shot late in the second. And they werenât able to put the contest away until Filippone scored an empty-net goal with 31 seconds left in the game.
âA couple of breaks that they got made the difference,â offered Daigle. âBut considering that on paper, we werenât supposed to be here, I couldnât be any more prouder of the effort the guys put in. They really played their âAâ game tonight.â
The Hawks put the clamps on the Broncos defensively in the first period and limited them to just three harmless shots on Hawks goalie William Palmer. They also scored their first goal 5:51 into the game when Justin Finan blasted the rebound of a shot by Robert Buehrer over the shoulder of Broncos goalie Jacob Toback.
But just when this contest was going to look like a carbon copy game of the Hawksâ 4-1 victory on Feb. 3, which saw Hendricken handcuff the Broncos on just 11 shots, the visitors came alive in the second period and outshot their hosts, 9-5.
The Broncos also knotted the score with three minutes on the clock, as Drew Buxton took a centering pass from co-captain Andrew Etheridge, who fought off a Hendricken player for control of the puck near the side of the net, and backhanded it past Palmer.
But the Broncosâ joy was shortlived. With 1:50 left in the period, the Hawks reclaimed their lead on Matt Creamer 18th goal of the season, as his shot in heavy traffic in front of the Broncosâ net hit a defenseman and found its way past Toback.
After Mitchellâs goal gave the Hawks a two-goal lead, the Broncos answered back 19 seconds later on an goal by Mitchell Lafond that was set up nicely by Etheridge.
The Broncos had a bit of momentum, but they could only manage four more shots the rest of the way. They eventually pulled Toback in favor of an extra attacker with less than 90 seconds to play, but the strategy backfired when Filippone scored his goal.
âWe have to come back at our place,â offered Daigle. âWe told the guys that (Hendrickenâs) beatable. Weâre just going to go home, get some rest, and try to beat them at our place and get back here Monday to play them again.â