PROVIDENCE — Mount St. Charles Academy has relied primarily on its offense to get the job done this season.
Wednesday night it was the defense turn to make the headlines.
Lauren Deguire's goal in the first period was all the offense that was needed as the top-seeded Mounties held off No. 2 seed Bay View Academy, 2-0, in the opener of their best-of-three championship finals at Providence College's Schneider Arena.
Mount withstood a stellar performance by Bengal goalie Anastasia Procaccini and also had a fine night from its freshman netminder Sarah Erban to put themselves a win from sweeping the series and notching their second straight title and sixth overall.
Game 2 of the series resumes tonight when the two teams square off at 8, back at Schneider.
“I was telling the kids that this was the game that we became a legitimate defensive team,” said MSC first-year coach Steve Shea, whose squad had a league-leading 86 goals during the regular season. “We hadn't been pressed quite like this too many times this year. It was a case of learning what we are suppose to do. It took us a while, but better late than never. “
The Mounties' game-winning score came with less than five minutes remaining in the initial period. It also came just 14 seconds after Mount had killed off a two-minute power-play opportunity by the Bengals on an interference penalty by Deguire.
But Deguire made up for her mistake by stealing the puck from Bay View right after she got out of the box and quickly passed it over to senior teammate BriAnna Narodowy. Narodowy skated between the circles and flicked it back to Deguire near the left side of the crease. The Mount senior capitalized on the opportunity and slashed a high-flying shot that hit the left corner of the net.
“It was a beautiful play,” Shea said. “Bree Narodowy made a fabulous unselfish pass and Lauren popped it in. That was awesome.”
The Mounties, who out-shot the Bengals by a slim 7-6 margin in the first period, dominated the middle stanza. But it had nothing to show for it, primarily due to Procaccini. She matched Erban with 20 saves for the night, however, she had most of those stops in an intense second period by the Mounties.
Eight of the 10 shots that Mount fired in the period came on a trio of vicious attacks from just outside the crease.
“The second period was by far our best period,” Shea said. “We generated a lot of offense and generated a lot of shots. We almost got a second goal and a third goal, but it didn't happen. I think that may have changed the game a little bit. But it didn't happen so we were forced to play a tight game the whole way.”
“Our strategy was to try and come around the corner and come from the side and into the crease and hopefully make something happen,” he continued. “(Procaccini) was good enough to keep it around, but I was real pleased with the second period.”
While it was the play of Procaccini that stood out in the second period, Erban shined the most in the final period.
Three minutes into the period, Bay View junior Beth Fogarty slapped a shot from the left circle that Erban made a glove save. She had a few more similar efforts, including another sizzler from Bengals junior Nicole Palermo with 6:15 left. The Mounties got their insurance goal with five seconds on the clock when senior Sam Smith scored on an empty-netter.
“She had a great game,” said Shea about Erban. “Assistant coach Tony DiRenzo says she has ice water in her veins. She had a shootout win the other night (against North Smithfield in the semifinals) and she was just as calm as a player with 20 years in the National Hockey League. Maybe she doesn't know enough to be nervous? I don't know what it is, but she has done a really nice job. Obviously she will be back (tonight).”
Bay View coach Karen Emma felt the Mounties were just the better team on Thursday.
“It was a great game,” Emma said. “They just played a little better. Every time we play Mount they are an unbelievable opponent. It's a great, intense rivalry. I thought we played well...I thought we did a good job. We stuck to our game plan. We just couldn't put one away. They out-played us.”
Mount will now try and wrap up the series tonight when the two teams square off for Game 2. Shea knows it won't be easy.
“We have to keep our foot on the throttle,” he said. “The last two times we played this game (against Bay View), they won the first game and we had to come back. One we lost and the other game we won it. the thing that I told them, we got them down a little bit and we have to come out hard in the game tomorrow. We have to get back to our game of getting in deep and putting in the pressure. That's what we have to do. I told them to go home, drink a quart of low-fat chocolate milk and replenish yourself, get some sleep, eat well and come back tomorrow.”