NORTH SMITHFIELD --- It’s extremely rare to see someone break a state record and reach a prestigious milestone in the same game, but that’s exactly what Kayla Kiernan did on Saturday night.
The North Smithfield senior center set the girls’ mark for most goals scored in a career when she netted her 97th score with 2:12 to go in the first period of her team’s game against the Cranston co-op squad.
Then after she notched two more goals in the second period, she tallied No. 100 with 56.3 seconds left in the game to seal a hard-fought 5-2 triumph by the Northmen before one of their largest crowds at the Rhode Island Sports Center.
“It’s amazing,” noted Kiernan, who scored twice the previous night in a 6-0 win over the Warwick co-op team to tie the state mark set four years ago by Lincoln School standout Mary Rogers. “I can’t even describe the feeling.”
Kiernan played the game with a heavy heart, because earlier in the day, her father was hospitalized with a mild stroke. She planned to visit him after the game and present him with the puck she used to establish the state record.
“I did this for my dad,” she admitted. “He’s doing good now, but I figured I had to do it tonight.”
“She told us all before the game,” added N.S. coach Bill Nangle. “She said her dad was doing OK and asked that nobody would dwell on it. We gave her the option to play and told her it was strictly her call, and she said that she felt playing would be the best thing for her right now.”
The win, meanwhile, quietly completed a weekend sweep for the Northmen, who are now 4-7, and with their eight points, are tied for fifth place in the standings with the Warwick co-op squad (4-3), which rebounded from its loss to N.S. on Friday by defeating Smithfield last night.
“It’s all about the ‘W’s,” said Nangle, whose team entered the weekend with four straight losses, all against the iron of the league. “It’s so great to have what happened tonight happen. I think the team is thrilled that we snapped the losing streak by playing two very good games of hockey.”
While the Northmen played very good hockey, so did Cranston goaltender Abbey Torres, who despite watching her team get dominated from start to finish and outshot by a 47-6 count, came up with some big saves, including four on Kiernan early in the game that left her a little frustrated.
“The pressure that was on Kayla, it was just building” added Nangle. “You could see it in the first period. She was getting more and more frustrated. I kept telling her, ‘Relax, relax. It’s going to happen. You just have to play the game and let the game do what it’s supposed to do.’ ”
The record-clinching score eventually came when Kiernan gathered a puck along the boards near center ice, skated past a pair of defensemen, broke in on Torres, and beat her with a backhand.
As soon as the puck sailed into the goal, the N.S. contingent cheered wildly as Kiernan celebrated in the corner of the ice with all her teammates.
“I was thinking about (the record) at the beginning,” she added. “That’s why I couldn’t put the puck in the net. Everyone was saying, ‘Calm down, calm down,’ but once I got the first goal, I felt a weight come off my shoulders.”
While the hosts ruled the game with Cranston (2-6), the visitors wouldn’t go away quickly, and with 40 seconds left in the first period, they tied the score on a low shot by Victoria Adams that went through the pads of goalie Alexandra Euglow.
The hosts then seized a 3-1 lead in the first 91 seconds of the second period. Hannah Decelles netted the first goal 43 seconds into play by redirecting a wicked slap shot by Kiernan past Torres, and Kiernan scored at 1:31 with an unassisted goal that was almost a carbon copy of her first tally.
Cranston then made it a 3-2 game on a wrist shot by Stephanie Casale with 5:44 left in the period, but Kiernan got that goal back with 32.2 seconds on the clock on a partial breakaway that was set up by a nice steal near the N.S. bench and go-ahead pass by Nicole Dumais.
Kiernan had several close calls before she scored her 100th goal on a 2-on-1 breakaway with Decelles in the game’s final minute. She hit the post twice midway through the final period and was denied on a breakaway with 4:10 to go on a low stick save by Torres.
Cranston co-op 1 - 1 - 0 -- 2
North Smithfield 1 - 3 - 1 -- 5
First period: NS -- Kayla Kiernan (unassisted), 9:48; C -- Victoria Adams (unassisted), 11:20. Penalties: C -- 1-1.5.
Second period: NS -- Hannah Decelles (Kayla Kiernan, Jessica Salisbury), :43; NS -- Kayla Kiernan (unassisted), 1:31; C -- Steph Casale (unassisted), 6:16; NS -- Kayla Kiernan (Nicole Dumais), 11:28. Penalties: None.
Third period: NS -- Kayla Kiernan (Hannah Decelles), shorthanded, 11:04. Penalties: NS, 2-3.
Shots on goal: Cranston 6, North Smithfield 47. Goalie saves: C -- Abbey Torres (42 saves); NS -- Alexandra Euglow (3 saves-5 shots), Britney Evangelista (6:16, second period, 1 save-1 shot).