WARWICK — In a critical Division I/Cimini showdown against rival Hendricken High on Wednesday night, Mount St. Charles head coach Dave Belisle expected more – much more – from his troops.
Truth be told, the Mounties assembled a decent second stanza against the Hawks, but – before and after – Belisle's bunch failed to display a true want to win.
Senior forward Josh Olson netted a pair of goals while tri-captain Liam Watkinson posted a pair of assists to pace Hendricken to a 4-1 league victory before perhaps 350 fans at Thayer Arena.
Belisle spent over 15 minutes behind closed doors in Locker Room 3 after the defeat, and they rarely opened. That's because of his displeasure with his squad's overall mindset. Once he did step away, he acknowledged, “They were just the better team. They came out and dictated play. They forechecked us, outhit us, were better prepared mentally and had more jump in their legs.
“I thought we played a pretty good second period, but we gave up a quick goal in the third (to make it 3-1), and that was the difference maker; I thought we just folded,” he added. “We had a couple of opportunities afterward, but we didn't convert. They were just the better team.”
From the opening puck drop in that initial stanza, the hosts dominated. The Hawks (now 13-3-1 overall and 9-2-1 in D-I) assembled better passing and speed, forced an abundance of turnovers and won most of the faceoffs – regardless of end – but only led by one when the buzzer sounded.
With 5:54 remaining in that opening session, Olson stationed himself by the right post and whacked in a shot with senior keeper/co-captain Brian Larence sprawled on the ice to give Hendricken the advantage.
Only 37 ticks later, it looked as if the Hawks would make it 2-0 when senior Andrew Fera delivered a wicked slap shot from the right point at Larence, who made a spectacular glove save.
The Mounties, who dropped to 14-6-0 overall and 11-3-0 league) never really threatened until freshman Jack Boisvert received a pass in the low slot, spun around and knocked a try at the cage, but it sailed just outside the right post.
With just 1:51 left in the period, officials whistled Fera for a high-stick infraction, and – at the 26.9 mark – senior tri-captain Jon Finelli took the same penalty to give MSC 36 seconds of a five-on-three advantage.
Hendricken closed the stanza with the 1-0 lead, but the Mounties had another nine seconds of the 5-on-3, not to mention 1:34 left on their second power play.
Belisle's crew never delivered, but Boisvert temporarily saved the day. Less than five seconds after the hosts had killed the man advantage, he somehow chipped an up-close try under junior goalie Matt Kenneally to knot it at 1-1.
The assist went to classmate Justin D'Abrosca.
If not for some outstanding netminding by Larence, the Mount may have found itself behind at least two or three. The former came true when sophomore forward Jamie Armstrong converted perhaps the prettiest tally of the contest. With 5:23 left in the middle session, he skated into enemy territory, juked two defenders, lost the puck for a moment, regained it and rifled a wrister past Larence.
That gave the Hawks a 2-1 cushion, one it didn't yield.
MSC did have a few stellar moments, when senior Tom Crudele hustled down the left boards and drilled a wrist shot at Kenneally with 7:33 remaining, but the latter made a solid blocker stop.
Less than a minute later, freshman Daniel Allen unleashed a try from the lower left circle, but the Hawks' netminder again came up big.
The Mounties had one of their most impressive shifts of the evening late in the period, and with senior defenseman and co-captain Marc Squizzero serving an interference penalty. Senior forward Ryan Badeau knocked a back pass to a streaking D'Abrosca between the circles, and he puck-handled past a defender before trying to poke a backhand into the cage.
Kenneally, though, flashed his right pad to drive it away.
As far as Belisle was concerned, the Hawks iced the triumph with only 24 seconds elapsed in the third. Watkinson won a faceoff in the offensive left circle, and Finelli crushed a slapper past Larence for the 3-1 advantage.
Though the Mount produced several attempts on Kenneally afterward, Olson finished off the win with a wrister from inside the right circle, sneaking a feed from Watkinson under Larence.
Larence closed with 18 saves, and Kenneally 15.
“I tell the kids all the time, 'You've got to play for the name and the crest on your shirt,' and sometimes they do, sometimes they don't,” Belisle offered. “We now just have to regroup. We've got (Hendricken) one more time at our place at the end of the season, but we can't think about that right now. We've got Burrillville on Friday (at Levy), and La Salle at home on Saturday.
“We're going to have to play a lot better in both of those games if we want to come close to winning the league.”