WOONSOCKET --- When La Salle Academy jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the first six minutes of Friday night’s series-opening game with Mount St. Charles Academy, the Mounties and their fans were feeling a bit uneasy and restless.
It was the Rams who dealt the Mounties their lone loss of the regular season -- a 3-0 defeat back on Feb. 4 -- and it was the fourth-seeded Rams who came out determined to knock off the top-seeded, three-time defending champions.
But the Mounties got stronger as the night progressed and came back to score a thrilling 3-2 overtime win over their visitors in their best-of-three Division I semifinal-round opener before a standing-room-only crowd at Adelard Arena.
Mike Magerman was the hero of the night for the Mounties, who improved to 19-1-1, as he tied the score with a power-play goal with 4:46 left in regulation and netted the game-winner 48 seconds into the extra 7½-minute session.
The Mounties will try to wrap up the series tonight at 7 p.m. when the action resumes at Thayer Arena. If the Rams (15-4-2) even things up, the series will return to Adelard on Monday night.
“It’s going to be another good one,” offered MSC coach Dave Belisle. “They get harder and harder as you go along. They really do.”
Last night’s game was definitely a hard test for the Mounties, especially after they found themselves staring at a quick 2-0 deficit and dealing with another strong performance from sophomore goaltender Joe Noonan, who finished the night with 34 saves.
“I’m glad we were in our building and not away because (coming back) may have been a lot more difficult,” noted Belisle. “They took it to us early. I can’t use the word ‘flat’ because how can you be flat in a playoff game? They had a step on us, and once they got the first goal, they jumped on us.
“But once we got our composure, I thought we played a lot better as the game progressed, especially in the second half of the game.”
The Mounties nearly drew first blood less than two minutes into the game on a shorthanded bid by Zach Samborsky, who ripped a shot in the slot that rang off the crossbar.
But the Rams carried the play down the other end of the ice, and at 2:17, they notched their first goal when Jason Delisle poked a shot past goaltender Dan Foster during a wild scrum for the puck on the doorstep of MSC’s net.
And at 5:59, the visitors bumped their lead to 2-0 on a goal by Dan Lucchetti that he scored by sweeping a loose puck in front of Foster past his right pad.
La Salle almost made it a 3-0 contest 80 seconds into the second period when Lucchetti skated free on a breakaway from the blue line, but he lost control of the puck as he went to make his move on Foster.
But the Mounties scored the next goal and cut their deficit in half on a goal by Alex Erban with 3:52 to go in the period. He reeled in a long pass from Brian Campbell and stuffed the puck between Noonan’s pads.
“I thought that goal really turned the game around for us,” offered Belisle. “I thought our game just stepped up from there. It’s amazing what one goal can do.”
The Mounties carried the momentum from that goal into the final period and did everything they could to net the equalizer. Magerman eventually came to the rescue with his tying goal, as he flipped a shot over Noonan’s glove and into the top right corner of the net.
The Mounties, who dominated the final 15 minutes and outshot the Rams, 14-6, soon won the game in OT. Alex Erban won a faceoff in the Rams’ end and got the puck to Magerman, who blistered a shot in the shot that zipped under the crossbar and behind Noonan.
While Magerman supplied the offensive heroics for the winners, Belisle chose to give the unofficial player-of-the-night honors to another player.
“I thought our best player tonight was Samborsky,” Belisle said of his senior co-captain. “I don’t even know if he got any points, but that doesn’t matter to me. Zach controlled the game for us, he beat people to the puck, and he was relentless.”
In the other Division I semifinal-round opener, Bishop Hendricken rolled past Moses Brown, 5-2.
La Salle Academy 2 - 0 - 0 - 0 -- 2
Mount St. Charles 0 - 1 - 1 - 1 -- 3
First period: LS -- Jason Delisle (unassisted), power play, 2:17; LS -- Daniel Lucchetti (Robert Fox), 5:59. Penalties: MSC, 2-4.
Second period: MSC -- Alex Erban (Ben Handanyan), 11:08. Penalties: LS, 2-4; MSC, 2-4.
Third period: MSC -- Mike Magerman (unassisted), power play, 10:14. Penalties: LS, 1-2; MSC, 1-2.
Overtime: MSC -- Mike Magerman (Alex Erban), :48. Penalties: None.
Shots on goal: La Salle Academy 22, Mount St. Charles 37. Goalie saves: LS -- Joe Noonan (34 saves), MSC -- Dan Foster (20 saves).