PAWTUCKET --- When Lincoln and Cumberland were rivals in the old Met B league from the mid-1990s to 2004, the two neighbors hooked up in some entertaining, tightly-contested meetings that were true crowd pleasers.
Since then, they have played in different divisions, but they have still found a way to include each other on their non-league schedules.
On Monday afternoon, the two teams met again in the second annual Kyle J. McLaughlin Scholarship Fund benefit hockey game at Lynch Arena and gave the gathering on hand an excellent high school contest to watch.
Brendan Dyer’s goal 6:03 into the second period provided the Lions with the only goal they needed. They then had to weather a third-period onslaught by the Clippers before sealing a 2-0 verdict on William Nesbitt’s empty-net goal with 24.8 seconds to play.
While the game was great to watch, the cause was even greater and allowed the two nearby communities to pay tribute to the memory of McLaughlin, a 2008 graduate of Cumberland High and a high-scoring center for the Clippers who was killed in a car crash on Nov. 2, 2009.
McLaughlin was a three-time All-Division selection who graduated with 123 career points and helped lead the Clippers to the Division III state title in his final season. He was also the recipient of the Rev. Robert C. Newbold Most Valuable Player Award.
“Kyle meant a lot to us,” said Cumberland coach Mark Andreozzi. “He was more than a kid who had over 100 career points playing hockey. You can talk about his hockey accolades, but who Kyle was as a person means more to us than that and that’s why we’re doing this.
“He was an extraordinary young man and we miss him a lot. I miss him a lot and this is why I wanted to do this.”
The organizers of this event didn’t present a Most Valuable Player award to the game’s top player, but if they did, it would have to go to Lincoln goalie Cody Phillips, who turned away 32 shots for the well-deserved shutout.
Phillips faced most of his serious tests in the final period when the Clippers, who outshot the Lions by a 32-30 count, fired everything but the kitchen sink at him and ended that period with 19 shots.
The Lions didn’t do themselves any favors by getting five minor penalties in that period, but Phillips still rose to the challenge and did everything he could to make it a one-goal game before Nesbitt’s empty-netter.
“Between (the second and third) periods, we talked about playing with more intensity because I thought we dominated the first two periods, especially the second period,” added Lincoln coach Jim Riel. “It was like the ice was tilted toward the north end, but unfortunately, it didn’t tilt back to the south end in the third period because they took it to us.
“But I thought Cody played a great game down the stretch. I didn’t like the penalty kill and I was surprised they didn’t put one in, but our goalie played unbelievable.”
“We got some opportunities, but their goalie made some good stops,” added Andreozzi. “That’s what it came down to. We were all over him in the third and I thought we were going to tie it -- there was one shot that just bounced right past the crease -- but (Phillips) played well.”
Andreozzi also praised his netminder, junior backup Patrick Noke, who got the start in place of senior standout Michaelangelo Federici and was brilliant. Noke ended up stopping 28 of the 29 shots he faced and came up huge on a breakaway by Lincoln sniper Ryan O’Dell with 1:10 left in the game.
“We gave Mick a little rest,” said Andreozzi. “He’s been playing all year and Patrick has worked hard in practice. This was an opportunity to get him into a game and I thought he played outstanding.”
For the first two periods, this game belonged to the Lions. They held a 12-7 and 11-6 advantage in shots over the first and second periods and got Dyer’s goal off a pass from behind the net by Nesbitt that Dyer flipped past Noke.
But the Clippers stole the show in the final 15 minutes and only a spectacular effort by Phillips allowed the Lions to bus home with the victory.
“This is an awesome rivalry,” added Andreozzi. “It was a great up-and-down hockey game -- clean, hard-working, hard-nosed hockey. It was exciting. My assistant coach said to me at the end of the game, ‘That was an unbelievable high school hockey game.’ And it was.”
“We like this game,” noted Riel. “The top public school teams in D-II and the six in D-I are all similar. They all play each other tough and all the games are like this. It’s nice when we stretch out, not play the private schools, and play these guys. And with the cause, it’s even more exciting and honorable to be here.”
Cumberland 0 - 0 - 0 -- 0
Lincoln 0 - 1 - 1 -- 2
First period: No scoring. Penalties: C, 1-2; L, 1-2.
Second period: L -- Brendan Dyer (William Nesbitt, Ryan O’Dell), 6:03. Penalties: L, 1-2.
Third period: L -- William Nesbitt (unassisted), empty net, 14:35.2. Penalties: C, 2-4; L, 5-10.
Shots on goal: Cumberland 32, Lincoln 30. Goalie saves: C -- Patrick Noke (28 saves); L -- Cody Phillips (32 saves).