NORTH SMITHFIELD — Two players who combined to score just five goals during the regular season came up huge with the two biggest goals of the year for North Smithfield High on Saturday night.
Lauren Ledoux’s game-tying goal with 7:57 to play in the game and Samantha Archambault’s game-winner with 1:02 to go led the Northmen to their second 3-2 triumph in as many nights and a best-of-three quarterfinal-round sweep of La Salle Academy at the Rhode Island Sports Center.
For the past few years, the Northmen and the Rams have shared a rich rivalry in the postseason that has seen both schools clash in the old Division II finals and play in some memorable showdowns in each series.
And the excitement from those series spilled over into this weekend’s battles. On Friday night, Kayla Kiernan’s goal four minutes into overtime helped N.S. bus out of URI’s Boss Arena with a victory, and last night, it was Ledoux and Archambault who ended up as the night’s heroes.
Down 2-1, Ledoux, who scored just four times during the season, crashed the net during a wild scrum in front of the Rams’ net and managed to get her stick on the puck and tap it past Rams goaltender Holly Scott, who was superb for the second straight night.
“Lauren works and works and work,” added N.S. coach Bill Nangle. “We’ve been trying to push her to crash the net, and tonight, she crashes the net and look what happens. That was a great goal.”
That set the stage for Archambault’s timely goal. A natural defenseman-turned-forward who scored just once, Archambault scored her goal on a 3-on-2 break, as she took a pass from Jess Salisbury and fired a bullet that sailed over Scott’s glove.
“She’s been working on her shot all year long,” admitted Nangle. “She scored on a banger (on Friday) and she couldn’t have picked that (shot) any cleaner. When she fired that rocket into the upper left hand corner, I nearly fell off the bench.”
The sweep lifts the fifth-seeded Northmen (10-8) into next weekend’s best-of-three semifinal round against top-seeded defending state champion Mount St. Charles, which earned a quarterfinal-round bye.
Most folks are already tabbing the Northmen as big underdogs in this series, but Nangle promised to give the Mounties a run for their money.
“They’re the best,” he offered. “If you’re going to win a state championship, it goes through Mount St. Charles. We’re going to work hard this week and we‘ll give them everything we have next weekend.
“I have a tremendous amount of respect for (Mount coach) Steve Shea and what he’s done with that program. We have to find some ways to bring some grit and gut and see what happens. But we’re going to give them a fight, I can tell you that.”
The Rams, who were the tournament’s fourth seed, received big nights from their top two stars. Scott, who stopped 47 shots in a losing cause on Friday, turned away 42 shots last night, and Lauren Abbenante, the division’s leading scorer during the regular season with 32 goals, scored twice.
Abbenante’s first goal came 6:15 into the game on a wristshot in the slot that was set up by Karoline Inman, but Kiernan tied the score with a power-play goal 3:22 into the second period by stuffing in the rebound of her own shot under Scott’s left pad.
But Abbenante struck again four minutes later to give the Rams back the lead. With two defensemen draped on her in front of the net, Abbenante managed to reel in a pass from Inman, skate in on N.S. netminder Brittney Evangelista, and slip a shot between her pads.
The Northmen, who limited the high-scoring Rams to just 27 shots on Friday, again excelled defensively and handcuffed their opponent to a season-low 13 shots on Evangelista.
“Our defense tonight just played awesome,” said Nangle. “Amanda Dube and Cara Figuerido did a great job, and our three big guns up front, Kayla, Jess, and Hannah Decelles, also did well. Hannah double-shifted the whole night and really played a great game.”