BURRILLVILLE — The script from Monday night’s Division I playoff game between the Burrillville/Ponaganset co-op team and North Smithfield read the same as the one from the previous two games of their best-of-three series.
For the third straight game, the Broncos kept the majority of the action in the Northmen’s end of the rink and outshot them by a better than 3-to-1 ratio, and for the third straight game, N.S. goaltender Britney Evangelista frustrated the Broncos with another superb performance.
But the Broncos found a way to light the lamp and erase the disappointment from Saturday night’s shootout defeat to the Northmen, and more importantly, they will be playing for the Division I championship this weekend.
Senior captain Kelsey Koprusak and freshman Maggie Reid each produced a pair of goals to overcome a 41-save effort by Evangelista and lift the Broncos to a 4-0 victory over their neighboring rivals at Levy Arena.
The Broncos will now turn their attention to dueling the East Bay (Barrington, Mount Hope, Portsmouth) co-op team, which claimed Game 3 of its best-of-three semifinal-round series with the Cranston co-op squad by a 5-3 score last night.
Game 1 of their best-of-three title series will take place on Saturday at a time to be announced at Providence College’s Schneider Arena, while the second game is on the docket for Sunday at 3 p.m.. A third and deciding game will be held on Tuesday at a time to be announced.
It will be the Broncos’ first trip to a championship since the inaugural 2002-03 campaign of girls’ hockey, when they dropped a 4-1 decision to Mount St. Charles in a winner-take-all showdown.
“Our girls came to play today,” said Burrillville coach Marc Brissette. “We lost a tough game on Saturday, and I just told the girls, ‘We know that we’re a strong team, and if we have patience with the puck and get it in deep and forecheck, then good things will happen,’ and that certainly paid off.”
The defeat, meanwhile, erases a commendable season by the Northmen, who despite boasting one of the smallest rosters in the league (14 players), caught fire at the end of the season to earn a playoff berth.
“I couldn’t be more proud of my kids,” admitted N.S. coach Bill Nangle. “We knew this [series] was David vs. Goliath and Burrillville was the team to beat, and they weren’t to be denied this year, so my hat goes off to them. They’re an awesome team and I wish them a lot of luck in the finals.”
Evangelista, who raised eyebrows throughout the state on Saturday night with her 88-save performance in the Northmen’s 2-1 victory, wrapped up the night with another high number of stops as the Broncos ruled the shots department by a 45-10 margin.
And she was at her best again in the early going, denying her opposition time and time again until the hosts made good on their 18th shot of the game.
With 20 seconds left in the first period, Reid scored the only goal the Broncos needed by taking a centering pass from Koprusak and blasting a shot that was just out of the reach of the webbing of Evangelista’s glove.
Koprusak then doubled the Broncos’ lead with 2:48 left in the second period when she one-timed the rebound of a shot by Tiara Bianco past Evangelista, who kicked out Bianco’s shot, but right to a wide-open Koprusak in front of the net.
The wheels eventually came off the Northmen’s wagon in the third period, as Koprusak made it a 3-0 game by tipping home a pass from Jackie Keable, and 5½ minutes later, Reid scored off a pass from Trista Cardone.
Koprusak also had an assist on that goal, and in Brissette’s eyes, turned in an all-around exceptional performance.
“We have a very young team and she’s our only senior,” said Brissette. “She and I had a little talk today about the game and I said, ’You’re going to lead us to victory,’ and she did. From the first drop of the puck, she played a great game and she took the leadership role and ran with that with the girls.”
Broncos goalie Brittney Bebeau didn’t need to make any flashy saves to post the shutout in net, but Evangelista, as she did throughout the series, made her share to keep her team in the game.
Evangelista’s best stop of the night came 24 seconds before Koprusak’s first goal and it came on a partial breakaway by Teigan Palazini. She zipped past a Northmen defenseman and skated in alone of Evangelista, only to be denied by a stick save from the sophomore goalie.
“She’s unbelievable,” said Nangle. “The kid is a gamer, and when the lights come on and she sees the fans in the stands, she just turns on the juice and she plays like a champion. It’s an awful lot of fun to have a kid like that on your team.”