WARWICK --- This wasn’t Game 3 of the best-of-three state championship series at Brown University, but Mount St. Charles and Bishop Hendricken did their best to help duplicate that atmosphere in their regular-season finale on Saturday night at Thayer Arena.
Playing in front of a packed house, the Mounties and Hawks hooked up in a fast-paced, tight-checking duel that contained just one penalty and very few shots and mistakes by either side.
But sophomore Riley Miller settled the evenly-played showdown by netting a goal with 1:09 left in the second period that withstood the test of time and lifted the Hawks to a very significant 1-0 win over their parochial rivals that landed them the Division I-Cimini title.
The victory also gives the Hawks, who are 9-0-1 in their last 10 games, a 14-2-2 record and the No. 1 seed in the Division I tournament, which gets under way on Friday night.
The Mounties will skate into the postseason with the second seed and a 14-4 record, with three of their losses coming to the Hawks. Mount had dropped its season opener to them at Adelard Arena by a 2-1 score and suffered a 4-1 loss on Feb. 19 at Thayer.
In last night’s game, defense was truly the name of the game, as both teams teamed up to total just 38 shots, with a season-low 17 taken by the Mounties, as the Hawks’ Matt Kenneally played well between the pipes and received a nice helping hand from defensemen Bryce Dolan and Tucker Alberigo.
Mount goalie Brian Larence (20 saves) and defensemen Marc Squizzero and Keith Phaneuf also had strong games to help contain the Hawks, but Miller, who scored just eight goals all season, broke through in the final moments of the second period.
Miller was on a 2-on-1 break with Andrew Fera, but instead of passing the puck to him, he kept it and fired a low shot that Larence stopped with his stick. But the rebound went right to Miller, who wrapped it around Larence and into the back of the net.
The Hawks nearly doubled their lead in the third period, when five minutes into play, defenseman Bryce Dolan unleashed a long slap shot that whizzed past Larence’s blocker, but hit the post. The Hawks clanged another post 2½ minutes later, drawing groans from their large contingent of fans.
With 4:41 to play, the Hawks’ Chris Shalvey got sent to the penalty box for a high stick, but the hosts were able to kill the contest’s lone penalty and allow Mount to take three shots that were easily swatted away by Kenneally.
The visitors soon called a time-out with 56.7 seconds on the clock to go over their strategy in the waning time. They eventually pulled Larence for a sixth attacker with 49 seconds to go, but they were unable to net the equalizer.
Follow Eric Benevides on Twitter @EricBen24