BURRILLVILLE – The expected quarterfinal mismatch occurred at Levy Rink Friday night as No. 3 seed Burrillville/Ponaganaset co-op skated to a routine 6-1 decision over sixth-seeded Warwick co-op. Junior Kelsey Koprusak and senior Katie Couture each scored twice for the Lady Broncos.
But if the inevitable happens and the Broncos take the series and advance to a semifinal date with powerhouse Bay View Academy early next week, head coach Gary Rouleau is hoping to see a much better effort than their playoff opener.
The Broncos finished the night out-shooting the Lady Titans by a convincing 33-to-6 margin.
Nonetheless, the team on the ice hardly resembled the same one that has been red-hot this winter - a Bronco squad that had three straight convincing wins to end the league season, including a big upset over defending state champion Mount St. Charles Academy last Friday and a rout of Cranston co-op in its league finale the following night.
After the Titans took a 1-0 advantage on a fluke goal before the first minute of the initial period, Burrillville/Ponaganset responded with three of its own in the first stanza. From there, though, the Broncos never applied too much pressure on their rival en route to their win.
“The effort just wasn’t there at all,” said Rouleau, whose squad had out-scored its final three league opponents, 18-3. “I don’t know if they just thought they were going to win or what. It was certainly not the energy that we had towards the end of last week against Mount St. Charles and Cranston co-op.”
Burrillville/Ponaganset went into Friday’s contest the owners of an impressive 13-3 mark and a tie with Bay View for second in the league behind Mount (15-1-0). In contrast, Warwick possessed a 6-10-0 record and was swept by the Broncos in their two meetings by scores of 9-2 and 6-1, respectively.
“I think they were just taking them lightly,” Rouleau said. “I just think in your mindset if you come to the rink thinking that you are going to win that it’s hard to kick it into second gear.”
Despite the limited shots that Warwick mustered for the night, it managed to make its first one count. With just 58 seconds passed on the clock, forward Emily Fox scored on a soft shot from outside the crease.
“I think our goalie (Brittany Bebeau) thought it was a dump in so she just let it go and it caught the end of the post,” Rouleau said. “But that was actually not a bad thing. It opened our eyes a little bit.”
Burrillville/Ponaganset dominated the remainder of the period with Couture scoring back-to-back goals before the midway point and then Koprusak scoring at 8:32, courtesy of an assist from her first-line teammates of Couture and senior Kerri Nadeau.
That’s been a familiar occurrence this season as all three players had more than 40 points in the league with Couture and Nadeau each scoring 23 goals.
“That first line of ours, the K-line of Kelsey, Katie and Kerri, we kind of follow them,” Rouleau said. “If we get a goal from the second or third line, that’s a bonus.”
In a penalty-plagued second period where the Broncos were sent to the box three times for six minutes, Nadeau netted the only goal with a power-play score at 8:12.
Chelsea Duquette took advantage of some heavy pressure by her Bronco teammates in front of the cage in the third period to give her teammates a 5-1 lead by sneaking a shot past Warwick goalie Kayleen Murphy (27 saves). Less than a minute later, Koprusak finalized the score, benefiting from an assist from Nadeau.
Burrillville/Ponaganset will now try and wrap up the best-of-3 series tonight when the two teams square off at Thayer Arena at 7.
“I really expected to just come in and roll four lines tonight, but we just couldn’t,” Rouleau said. “We got the lead and we weren’t blowing them out by any means. They came and played tonight. Their energy for those (girls), they came and brought it tonight. They threw the kitchen sink at us as far as their effort. They got physical with us and that’s the way you need to play.”
Warwick co-op 1-0-0 – 1
Burrillville/Ponaganset co-op 3-1-2 – 6
First period – 1. W, Emily Fox (Emma Hindinger, Julianna Mollo) :58; 2. B/P, Katie Couture (Kelsey Koprusak, Sara Mandeville) 4:46; 3. B/P, Couture (Koprusak) 6:45; 4. B/P, Koprusak (Couture, Kerri Nadeau) 8:32. Penalties – W, 1-2.
Second period – 5. B/P, Nadeau (Koprusak, Chelsea Duquette) 8:12pp. Penalties – B/P, 3-6. W, 1-2.
Third period – 6. B/P, Chelsea Duquette (Sam Roberts, Kali Kut) 5:46; 7. B/P, Koprusak (Nadeau) 6:21. Penalties – B/P, 1-2. W, 2-4.
Saves – B/P, Brittany Bebeau 5. W, Kayleen Murphy 27. Shots – B/P, 33. W, 6.