WOONSOCKET – Even though he has considerably less players than most in Division II, St. Raphael Academy coach Robert Gribbin doesn’t like to use the words “tired legs” when describing his team’s play in the late stages of a game.
But what has been a common theme among his Saints squad this winter is it seems to lose some of its luster in the third period after hanging for the first two.
It happened again Friday night in a Div. II-North battle with first-place Cumberland at Adelard Arena.
Tied at 1 after the first two periods, the Clippers dominated their rival the final 15 minutes at Adelard Arena en route to 3-1 victory. Michael Kinch scored what proved to be the game-winner, scoring on a power-play goal midway into the period.
The Clippers out-shot the Saints, 14-6, in the final period and a deceiving 41-23 for the contest. Cumberland improved its league mark to 11-2-2, while SRA dropped to 3-12-0.
“We usually play good for two periods and for whatever reason the third period isn’t our strong suit,” said Gribbin, who had 12 players suit up for last night’s game as opposed to 19 for the Clippers. “I don’t blame it all on being tired. We made some mistakes and unfortunately we are a fragile team and in close games when you make mistakes that will cost you.”
Cumberland coach Mark Andreozzi wasn’t particularly pleased with his squad’s effort in the early stages of the game, but he liked the intensity in the final period. After Kinch scored, sophomore teammate Andrew Dulac netted the insurance tally with an unassisted goal just over two-minutes later.
“I think part of (the third period) was tired legs by St. Ray’s, but I think we also started to bring our game and started to play a little bit like we are suppose to,” Andreozzi said. “When you combine those two, it’s an advantage to us. They get tired and we start playing. That helps us.”
The Clippers took a 1-0 lead after the first period when senior Chris Lambert lit the lamp with 5:55 remaining. Lambert skated inside the circles and flicked a shot that went underneath the legs of Saints’ goalie Maxwell Lemay. Cumberland increased its tempo somewhat after the first goal, but for most of the period couldn’t really generate too many scoring opportunities.
The frustration was evident on Andreozzi’s face as his team skated off the ice after the initial period.
“We just came out flat,” he said. “Before the game, and all week, we talked about tempo, tempo, tempo. It’s coming down to the end of the season and we have to finish strong. We are kind of in that mix of things for playoff spots. We want to finish strong and finish as high as we can. You got to come out ready to go and we just weren’t. They came out ready to go.”
The Clippers were besieged by penalties in the middle period with four for eight minutes. SRA took advantage of one of those penalties when sophomore Ben Mello scored on a power play shortly after Cumberland’s Tom Salisbury was called for cross-checking. Mello found the back of the cage on the Saints’ first shot after the penalty, slipping one just beyond the crease that snuck by CHS goalie Michelangelo Federici.
“I have been preaching now for three weeks to just shoot the puck because we pass up too many shots,” Gribbin said. “He took a shot and it sneaks through. It barely made it in but we’ll take it. We’ll take the shot because that’s our first power-play goal in about 10 games.”
The Clippers, who beat the Saints, 4-1, at Lynch Arena back on Jan. 22, took care of business in the final period. After a vicious attack with three shots in a quick six-second span, Kinch scored the clincher off a rebound near the left side of the cage.
“We talked about getting traffic to the net and getting rebounds,” Andreozzi said. “We kept the pressure and connected on a rebound near the net and actually got on in.”