WOONSOCKET --- After cruising to a pair of lopsided Division I victories over the weekend, Mount St. Charles Academy got just what it needed on Monday night -- a competitive contest against one of the top public school teams in Eastern Mass.
The Mounties turned in one of their best games of the season and received strong contributions from all three of their lines and goaltender Dan Foster in a closer-than-it-appears 5-0 win over Needham High at Adelard Arena.
The three-time defending state champions, who remained unbeaten at 15-0-1, were taking the first of their three difficult non-league tests over the next couple of weeks against some of the premier teams in New England.
Next Wednesday, the Mounties head to Hamden, Ct. for a 3:30 battle with Hamden High, the fifth-ranked squad in Connecticut, and the following Wednesday at 4:30 p.m., they will host their annual showdown with mighty Catholic Memorial High, the third-ranked team in Massachusetts.
“These are the games that are going to get us ready for the playoffs,” MSC coach Dave Belisle admitted. “If you want to finish strong, you need to play these types of teams, and we’re hoping to build on (these games).”
The Mounties, who slugged Lincoln High, 7-0, and Barrington High, 10-1, over the weekend, brought out their best hockey against their tough visitors, and Belisle was very pleased with his team’s all-around play.
“This was a super game,” he noted. “We’re in a good groove right now. Our kids are playing hard and our captains (Trevor Plante and Zach Samborsky) are showing great leadership. Everything’s good right now.
“We know we have an extremely tough game on Friday against La Salle (a 7 p.m. game at Thayer Arena), but right now, the enthusiasm level is high and so is the intensity. I couldn’t be more pleased.”
The Rockets (8-4-2) entered the day ranked 14th in the ESPNBoston.com’s Eastern Mass. polls.
They also sit in third place in the ultra-competitive Bay State Conference’s Carey Division behind Weymouth (11-1-1) and Braintree (8-2-2), who are respectively ranked second and 12th in the same poll.
The Rockets also soared into Woonsocket with a four-game win streak and one of the Greater Boston area’s best goaltenders in Evan MacDonald, who sported a 1.29 goals-against-average and five shutouts in a dozen games.
But the Mounties gave MacDonald a rude welcome by scoring four times in the first two periods and sending him to the bench for the start of the third.
“All three of our lines played very well,” remarked Belisle. “We’re getting contributions from our three lines and that’s going to be key for the rest of the season. I can’t tell you how excited I am to see all three play like that.”
While MacDonald struggled, Foster flourished and turned away 31 shots for the hard-earned shutout. He saved most of his best stops for the final period, when the Rockets outshot the Mounties, 17-13.
The only puck that squeezed past Foster came 4:10 into the last period when a Needham player nudged it past him during a scramble in front of the goal. But the score was quickly waved off when one of the officials ruled that the player kicked the puck past Foster.
“Our goaltender again played very well,” exclaimed Belisle. “He looked in control and he made some great saves. (Needham) had a good power play and they had some chances to score, but (Foster) made some big saves.”
Sophomore Brian Belisle got the Mounties on the board 5:22 into the game with a power-play goal that he scored on a wristshot from the center of the right faceoff circle. Belisle’s shot sailed over MacDonald’s left shoulder, hit the bottom of the crossbar, and dropped over goal line.
Shamus Maloney then doubled the Mounties’ lead only 70 seconds into the second period with a shot in the slot that zipped between MacDonald’s pads and made its way into the back of the net.
The game remained a two-goal battle until the Mounties stuck a dagger into the Rockets’ comeback hopes by scoring a pair of goals in the period’s final 29.6 seconds of the period.
Brian Campbell notched the first goal on a partial breakaway that saw him reel in a long pass from Alex Erban, wheel around a defenseman, and beat MacDonald with ease. Foster, who kicked away a shot that Erban gathered, also received credit for a rare assist.
While Campbell’s goal was being announced over the loudspeaker, Plante made it a 4-0 game 7.9 seconds later by tipping in a pass across the goal by Mike Magerman past MacDonald’s glove.
The Rockets’ best period was the third, for not only did they outshoot the Mounties, but they also received some solid play from their backup goalie, Connor Murray. He stopped the first 12 shots he faced before Magerman netted MSC’s final goal with 58.2 seconds to play.
“We still dictated play,” Belisle said with a grin. “I like the way we’ve been playing in the third period. We’ve had a lot of energy in the third period of all these games and that’s going to be important.”
Needham (Mass.) 0 - 0 - 0 -- 0
Mount St. Charles 1 - 3 - 1 -- 5
First period: MSC -- Brian Belisle (Zachary Samborsky, Ben Handanyan), power play, 5:22. Penalties: N, 3-6; MSC, 1-2.
Second period: MSC -- Shamus Maloney (Brian Campbell, Alex Erban), 1:10; MSC -- Brian Campbell (Alex Erban, Dan Foster), 14:30.4; MSC -- Trevor Plante (Mike Magerman, Zachary Samborsky), 14:38.3. Penalty: MSC, 1-2.
Third period: MSC -- Mike Magerman (Brandon Borges), 14:01.8. Penalty: MSC, 2-4.
Shots on goal: Needham 31, Mount St. Charles 33. Goalie saves: N -- Evan MacDonald (16 saves-20 shots); Connor Murray (0:00, third period, 12 saves-13 shots) MSC -- Dan Foster (31 saves).