WARWICK – That’s one way to break out of a slump.
Senior Jessica Salisbury earned her first-ever hat trick and senior teammate Kayla Kiernan scored twice and also had three assists as North Smithfield cruised past the Warwick Lady Titans, 7-0, Friday night at Thayer Arena. The win snaps a four-game losing skid that began on New Year’s Day with a 4-1 setback to Division I co-leader Mount St. Charles Academy.
“We have had a tough time of it so far. We had a tough schedule. We played some real strong teams and, although we have been in most of those games, we just haven’t found ways to win,” said Northmen coach Bill Nangle, whose squad (3-7 in Div. I) dropped a pair of losses to Burrillville/Ponaganset Co-op and another defeat to Bay View during its rough stretch. “Tonight was nice. It’s always nice to break a losing streak. The kids are really excited about that right now.”
The night turned out to be a milestone one for Kiernan. But it could get even more special tonight when the Northmen face Cranston Co-op at the Rhode Island Sports Center.
With her two scores against Warwick (3-3), Kiernan tied the state record of 96 career goals, set by the Lincoln School’s Mary Rogers in 2007.
Kiernan certainly could have established a new mark on Friday. But after netting both her tallies in the first two periods and with North Smithfield already leading the Titans by a 6-0 score, Nangle elected to sit out his star player for most of the final period to allow more of his bench to get playing time.
“Whenever we got a lead like that we think it’s only right to let the kids that don’t play that often play even more,” said the N.S. coach. “Those kids got a lot of ice time tonight.”
The classy gesture by Nangle didn’t bother Kiernan one bit.
“I’d rather break the record at home because a lot of people from school and stuff will be there and think it’s a bigger deal,” Kiernan said. “Plus, I wasn’t really focusing on breaking the record today. I wanted a lot of my teammates, who don’t get a chance to play, to get goals. It’s just as important that they score goals in my mind.
During the third period, Nangle never heard a word from his all-state senior about getting back on the ice to go for the record.
“It’s funny because Kayla gets pretty excited when (the other) kids play,” he said. “Never once does she ask to get back on the ice in those situations, even though she could have broken the record tonight. She’s quite a team player. If you ask her what makes her happy, it’s that all those kids got into the game.”
On the first score of the night for the Northmen, Kiernan demonstrated her unselfish play when she dished out an assist to junior Hannah Decelles in the first period. After skating down the ice with the puck, Kiernan had an opportunity to sneak a shot by Warwick goalie Kayleen Murphy near the right side of the crease, but flicked the puck over to DeCelles, who took advantage of Murphy being out of position and deposited a shot to the left corner at 3:24.
“It was a better play,” Kiernan said. “The goalie came out. If I shot it, it probably wouldn’t have gone in. I gave it up. The pass is always better than a goal.”
Kiernan, along with Salisbury, assisted on the Northmen’s next score of the period - a close-ranger from senior Karissa Lefebvre. Kiernan blasted a hard shot from the left circle that deflected off a Warwick defender. Salisbury was able to get the rebound and shifted it in the direction of Lefebvre, who popped it in from the right side.
Salisbury made it 3-0 with a goal at 11:09 and then, 27-seconds later, Kiernan found the net to give the Northmen a 4-0 advantage after the initial period.
Kiernan tied the state mark just 2:06 into the middle period, taking a feed from senior Cara Figuerido. On that score, the N.S. standout got the puck near mid-ice and outskated a few Titan defenders before unleashing a shot from the right corner of the crease.
“It was pretty special,” said Kiernan, about the record-tying goal.”It’s kind of exciting.”
Salisbury would score the final two goals for the Northmen, scoring at 5:01 of the second period on an assist from Kiernan and then finalizing the score just 41 seconds into the third period.
“(Salisbury) was a defenseman, we moved her up to forward a couple of weeks ago. She’s another kid that’s a team player,” Nangle noted. “She was one of the best defenseman in the state but said if you need me at forward, that’s where I am going.”
In the dominating win, North Smithfield out-shot Warwick by a 33-5 margin. The Titans had no shots on net in the final period.
North Smithfield will try and gain it second win of the weekend when it matches against Cranston (2-5) on its home ice Saturday, beginning at 6:35 p.m.
Another victory would be nice, but so would another goal from Kiernan.
“I would be extremely happy,” Nangle said. “Considering the fact that she didn’t know about the record until a few days ago, it’s never on her mind. I think for the first time I’m seeing her excited about the possibility of getting the record. But it’s still not the most important thing to her. The most important thing to her is that we win games. She’s happy right now because we won, not because she scored and tied the record.”
North Smithfield 4-2-1 - 7
Warwick 0-0-0 - 0
First period – 1. NS, Hannah DeCelles (Kayla Kiernan) 3:24; 2. NS, Karissa Lefebvre (Jessica Salisbury, Kiernan) 8:32; 3. NS, Salisbury (DeCelles) 11:09; 4. NS, Kiernan (Amanda Duke, Lefebvre) 11:36. Penalties – NS, 1-1:30. W, 1-1:30.
Second period – 5. NS, Kiernan (Cara Figuerido) 2:06; 6. NS, Salisbury (Kiernan) 5:01. Penalties – NS, 1-1:30. W, 1-1:30.
Third period – 7. NS, Salisbury (Amanda Dube):41.
Saves – NS, Britney Evangelista, Alexandra Euglow, Erin Blanchette 5. W, Kayleen Murphy 26. Shots – NS 33. W 5.